Inspiration from Rolls-Royce ad? Or imitation?

Quick advertising history lesson.

The ad below is widely considered one of the most famous long copy print ads of all time. At least in advertising circles it is.  Written by David Ogilvy, this was when people actually read copy and copywriters were afforded the time to write persuasive and informative copy worth reading. Maybe the ad and the copy are so great because they didn’t need it yesterday.


David Ogilvy actually spent three weeks reading about the car, interviewing engineers, Rolls Royce owners and driving the product before writing the ad. So, how did anyone know that the copy was read??? He got countless letters for using the word “diffident” in section 13. So that’s the original from 1959.

Fast forward to June, 1982. Out came the ad below which gave the target audience the brilliant emotional benefit of Rolls Royce ownership.  I remember this appearing as a spread in the New York Times magazine. It redoubled my efforts to become a copywriter.


Truly a wonderful variation on the original. And so is the copy.

Then this morning I see this web ad for the new BMW i3 electric car.


I think it’s a great ad for an electric car. I bet the BMW client did too. The problem is I liked this headline the first time I saw it. Thirty two years ago.

What’s your take? Imitation? Inspiration? Or a fluke?





4 thoughts on “Inspiration from Rolls-Royce ad? Or imitation?

  1. Mike, as an ad nerd, I pride myself on knowing ad history. Yet I was unaware of the 1982 re-make of the 1959 ad. And I’ve never seen the BMW i3 ad. (Probably b/c Google feeds me online ads for hair replacement not BMWs.)

    About imitation, inspiration or fluke, gosh, I hope it’s imitation. Because that could mean there’s a new generation of ad history nerds ready to study the past, salute it, and make some history of their own.

    For me, this is one of the best posts I’ve read in 2014. Thank you!

  2. Great post Mike! I am not offended or upset that BMW used the famous tagline. It’s a classic..and classics ad copy like this is timeless. Remember, although you’ve seen it before, a new generation hasn’t.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s