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Of Eye-Patches & Ogilvy

The Man In The Hathaway Shirt

If alive today, David Ogilvy, the long-heralded advertising impresario, would have celebrated his 100th birthday. While many articles of late have touched on his ability to weave captivating storytelling into headlines and copy, which eventually led to masterful leadership of one of the first multi-national advertising agencies, few mentioned his role as early promoter of disability.

Moderately priced dress shirt clothier, C. F. Hathaway, hired David Ogilvy in 1951 for a series of print advertisements. Initially focused on featuring detailed copy about the shirt’s quality and craftsmanship, that included a refined male model, the story goes that at the last minute on the way to the photoshoot, Ogilvy, on a whim, picked up an eye-patch. The ads were so captivating that the campaign lasted for the next 25 years.

Creating a sense of mystery, Ogilvy refused to share much of the central story surrounding the eye-patch or much about the man wearing it.

From Wikipedia: The man who appeared in the ad was Baron George Wrangell, who was a Russian aristocrat with 20/20 vision, but the advertisement’s creator, David Ogilvy, was inspired by a picture of Lewis Douglas, who had lost an eye in a fishing accident.

Although Baron George Wrangell had 20/20 vision, his eye-patch covered a supposed disfigurement or blindness and was one of the first images in mass advertising that portrayed human imperfection and disability in a positive way.

My personal story as an adman with eye loss makes me feel connected to Ogilvy and these ads. Thank you to David Ogilvy for helping advertising and disability move forward.

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