20 Must Read Marketing & Advertising Books

Ross Simmonds

So you want to become the next great advertising/public relations professional right? Well, there are several good advertising professionals and you can easily become one of them. It’s what differentiates the good from the great that will truly allow you to leave your mark on the business. If you’re looking to become the next Alex Bogusky or David Ogilvy, I have this piece of advice for you: Read.

While reading is a great way to increase your knowledge and a variety of other skills. It isn’t exactly the sure-fire way to become a success. You see, what comes after reading these books is what is most important. Taking the information and implementing some of your ideas and thoughts in the real world. If you want to become the next great advertising/PR professional this list of books will most certainly help you on your way:

Presentation Zen – Garr Reynolds

Presentation Zen aka Presentation Bible

I read several books while in high school but I don’t think any book has had the impact that this one has. I’ve carried the lessons and tips from this book into my advertising career and have seen great results. This book will ultimately change the way you look at a power point presentation. Instead of seeing four or five blank slides when you start a new document, you will see a blank canvas in which you will turn to art. In advertising you’re going to find yourself presenting on a regular basis and if you’re one of the people known to butcher presentations, this book could in fact be your saving grace. A wise man once told me to find something that everyone else does poorly and do it well – With a couple reads and a few notes this book will make you a slideshow superstar. Trust me, you have never captivated a room like you will once you design a slide deck with this book. If you don’t buy it today – You’re already one step behind.

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery

Zag – Marty Neumeier

Zag – The Difference Maker

When the world zigs – You should zag. This book is simple, to the point and gives it to you straight. If you want to be just like everyone else – Don’t read this book. If you want to stand out as being someone of high performance – Read it. There concepts in this book that would be beneficial for all types of businesses and some advice that you can most certainly keep in mind when working with clients. If you’re going to be in advertising you have to understand the importance of brand identity and this book will get you there. Zag is a no non-sense book that will still have you in stitches as you flip through the pages. It’s an easy read that I would recommend to anyone in the business world – period.

Don’t think – Just get it!

ZAG: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands

ReWork – Jason Fried and David H. Hansson

Everything you need to know about Business

I remember when this book first hit the shelves. Every day some one would message me asking if I had the chance to read it yet and day after day I’d just tell them I didn’t believe the hype. I didn’t think that these guys could really tell me anything I didn’t already know. Well, for the most part I was right. I knew the majority of the things in this book but I didn’t actually put them into motion. Heck, that’s why it’s so good!  It essentially reminds you of the basics of business that we all seem to forget at some point in our careers. I make an effort to read this book every few months, or at least skim through it to make sure I’m not being stupid.

While this book won’t really break any new ground for you it will most certainly be one of those books that you’ll never lend a friend. Yes, it’s that good. Trust me, ReWork will make you reevaluate how you work and actually make a change.

Buy ReWork Today!

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Ads

Hey Whipple – Read this!

This is probably one of the books you will want to read the day before you walk into an agency. If you’re a creative, account person or even in HR – This book should be a must-read for anyone looking to work in the agency world. While some of the information in this book is a bit dated, you can most certainly transfer some of the fundamentals to modern day marketing. Specifically, if you’re developing a banner ad you will walk away from reading this book with the confidence that you’re one step closer to being a better marketer. The author is brilliant with his writing as he combines a perfect amount of wit and insight.

Buy Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. Today!!

My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising – Claude Hopkins

The Classic

Claude Hopkins is one of the founders if advertising. Period.If you’re an adman or if you’re a student wishing to become the next Hopkins, Ogilvy or Bogusky – This is a book that you should be reading weekly. Find paragraphs and highlight them. Find witty lines and quote them. Take this book and memorize entire paragraphs while reciting them over and over like it’s going out of style. Like many of the other books on this list, this is one you should be required to read before taking an advertising job. Claude is the king of direct marketing and this book provides a variety of insights that can be translated very well into the modern direct marketing – social media and email marketing. Trust me, this is a must read.

Seeing that this book has been out for several decades it’s available for download here. If you’re interested in purchasing a hard copy however – You can My Life in Advertisingbuy My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising and Scientific Advertising for cheap.

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind – Ries & Trout

Brand Positioning 101

This book describes in detail the process of developing a brand position.  This brand position of course, is one that reflects company’s own strengths and weaknesses while also taking competition into consideration.  This book will teach you everything you need to know about brand management, advertising, marketing and product management as a whole. The impact that this book has had on several great minds cannot be denied – The creator of Geocities claims that this book is what allowed him to develop one of the original social networks.

This book is simply a marketing classic and is considered by many to be up there with the likes of Scientific Advertising and Ogilvy on Advertising. I’ve read this book several times and must agree with the critics that this is one that every ad man must have in their library. Simply a great book.

Get your hands on Positioning today.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Be Timeless..

While this book is more for those aspiring to run their own agency at some point – it still holds some values that can be transferred into the day-to-day life of a modern day ad man. One of the points in this book state that it takes a great idea to create a great company. Now replace the word company with billboard, campaign or twitter stream and you’ve got a simple concept that you should bring to the table, daily. The insights however don’t end here.  This book will show you how to help your clients go from developing good advertisements to creating great ones.

On top of all that, Built to Last will provide you with some insights on how to make your clients businesses…well, last. There is something to say about a timeless ad, the same way there is something to say about a timeless business. This book will help you make something timeless.

Click here to buy Built to Last..

Ogilvy on Advertising

Ogilvy on Advertising

Some say that those working in advertising without reading this book are ripping off their clients. I must say that this book is probably the one on this list that I hold the deepest to my heart. It wasn’t until I read this book that I realized exactly what type of advertisements I wanted to be a part of and what kind of companies I could associate myself with. Ogilvy has a simple message throughout this book  – Every advertisement should sell something.

Til this day, I completely agree with this concept and push to make sure that this is what happens with every advertisement I’m involved with. Whether I’m selling a brand or selling a product, at the end of the day – I’m making sure that the advertisement or digital execution is making a sale of some sort.

Buy Ogilvy On Advertising..

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

The  Best Seller

I’d say that the majority of the people reading this post will have read The Tipping point at some point in their lives. It’s become one of the most popular books in North America and is frequently talked about around the supper table. When you open the pages of this book you’re either going to fall in love with the book our completely hate it.

This book is important because it shows advertisers the importance of connecting with influencers and the different types of people who make ideas spread. There are several case studies and examples examined throughout the book that demonstrate how and how not to influence significant change. It’s a great read that can be wrapped up in the better part of a day.

Purchase Malcom Gladwells, Tipping Point.

The Brand Gap

The Brand Book

This book matches well with Ogilvy on Advertising as it outlines the importance of being visually appealing while also selling. If you’re in the business you will often see designers who are all about the look and completely forget about the goal which is to sell something. The Brand Gap is a book that clearly lays down the law and cuts out all of the marketing BS that several clients and advertisers believe just alike. It shows that what your brand represents is not what you believe or put in your advertising campaign. What your brand represents is the feelings your customers get when they use your product and the words they speak when they talk about it with their friends.

When you read this book you really will not need to bring a long a highlighter for the read. Every single line in this book has value and not one line is wasted. A must read for everyone in advertising.

Purchase the Revised edition of The Brand Gap

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – Seth Godin

Are you a Linchpin?

Seth Godin is a best-selling author and one of the most popular bloggers in the world. In this book, “Linchpin,”  he explains to us us that indispensable people, who he calls linchpins, think “along the edges of boxes, because that’s where things get done.” This book makes the list simply because it’s a mindset that needs to be instilled within anyone looking to succeed in advertising. You need to do whatever it takes to be considered indispensable. The world has constantly developed boring people who can easily be replaced and that’s not the trap you want to fall into.

The writing style of this book shows that Seth is a blogger as it’s broken into several different paragraphs each with their own message or analogy.  In my opinion, this is one of the more intellectually stimulating books of the Seth collection as some of the paragraphs require re-reading just to get the full impact of the message. Most certainly one of his best pieces of work and with out question of the most inspiring.

Order Linchpin Today!

Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Succeed – Brian Solis

Get Engaged!

I followed Brian Solis on twitter for a year or so now and when I heard he was launching his book I knew I had to read it. His blog on it’s own has provided a variety of great insights into understanding the digital world that I knew that Engage would be another great addition to my collection. And was I ever right. As the digital world continues to see fundamental shifts in the tools that we use to connect with consumers the value of engaging with customers is still through the roof.

While the first half of this book will simply discuss the general social media concepts – The second half really starts to get down to the fun stuff. If you’re looking to have your business go social (you should) this is a great book to take a look at before developing a Social Media Plan. It’s simply a great book with great information and one that every modern day ad man should read. Did I mention Ashton Kutchner wrote the Foreward?

Buy Engage by Brian Solis Today

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

The Sticky Book

I still remember where I was when I finished reading this book. That goes to show how sticky this book really is. Without question, this is one of those books that truly captivate you from the beginning with compelling stories and information that undoubtedly stick. I mean, if you’re going to write a book about how to make ideas and stories that stick your book better do the same. Well, the authors most certainly hit the nail on the head with this one as I found myself telling stories from this book weeks after I laid it down.

This book will assist you in being able to craft memorable ideas which in turn will help you become a better story-teller. In marketing, story telling has become a skill that is often overlooked but never under appreciated. A good story teller will find themselves connecting better with clients and colleagues while also working towards developing compelling and sticky work.

Get Made to Stick on Amazon.com

Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas

Pitching to Perfection

If Presentation Zen is Romeo than the Perfect Pitch is without question Juliet. When together, the concepts in this book along with those you will find in presentation zen will put you on track to be a great presenter. While the Perfect Pitch is an advertising centric book, the message within the lines can be applied to any business.

While this book doesn’t really embrace the entire concept of Power Point presentations,  if you put that aside and recognize the value that it presents in terms of pitching – You will find immense value. Yes, there will be some overlap between this book and Made to Stick but you can never be too good of a story teller. This book will most certainly help you become one of the best in the office.

Purchase the Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business

The Art of Client Service: 58 Things You Should Know

Client Services 101

I read this book my first day on the job at Colour as I kept hearing the term “Client Services” but never really understood what it meant. After reading this book not only did I have a clear understanding of what was expected from the “suits” but also a better understanding of what it means to serve your client. This book in fact, doesn’t really teach you how to be a great client service person – In fact, it shows you how to be a great professional.

This book is smart, engaging and extremely witty. The author gives you what you need to get ahead, stay ahead or get back in the game. I’ve read a lot of books on being a professional but I don’t think there is one quite like the Art of Client Services. This is a book that not only should be read by account people but also by creatives looking to better understand their industry.

Get your hands on The Art of Client Services

Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers


I’m a big fan of selling to women. Why? Because that’s where the buying power lies. So many ad men are so obsessed with themselves that they feel it’s only right to advertise to men. It simply doesn’t make sense (all the time).This book honestly opened my eyes more than any of the other books on this list. It’s a book that you cannot read without learning something new. If I was to start back up with my own agency tomorrow, I would ensure that every employee read this book.

One of the things that stuck out the most for me were the examples. The author refers to iPod, a product that’s clearly designed to appeal to women while keeping men just as intrigued.  Advertisers really need to take a second look at who their target market because he isn’t always a he.

Order Why She Buys on Amazon.com

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

The Paradox

This book explains how consumers arrive at the decisions they do. The author also goes on to talk about the negative aspects of making decisions in a world with so many different choices. Finally, the author offers suggestions on how to make better choices and reduce stress (something you will find in agency life). As you go through each of these areas in the book you will find yourself becoming more and more captivated by the authors writing style and information.

This is simply an excellent book that will put you in a position to greatly assist your clients. It outlines a variety of our consumer habits that even we would over look on a day-to-day basis. This book is not only insightful but also captivating as the author is truly an academic who has put together a great piece of work that will be read for many years to come.

Order The Paradox of Choice

Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation

Fascinating Book

We live in a world filled with clutter. On a regular basis we have to try and figure out ways to cut through the noise and persuade consumers. This book will provide you with real life examples and 7 specific triggers that will elicit the response you seek. The book goes on to demonstrate how the 7 triggers (lust, power, trust, mystique, prestige, vice and alarm) can not only help you with your marketing but also with day-to-day business exchanges. The author is able to combine the perfect mix of business with sociology, neurology and psychology to deliver a book that will keep you flipping and flipping through the text.

This book will live up to its title and simply fascinate you with great content.It’s a quick, interesting and very informative read. The author uses a conversational no-nonsense writing style that leaves you with an extremely enjoyable book. My only complaint about this book is the fact that I found a few concepts a bit redundant. Other than that tiny issue this is a book that I plan on keeping in my collection for quite some time.

Buy Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers To Persuasion And Captivation

Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy


This book is written in an easy to read, down to earth and conversational style that provides both factual and insightful content. It speaks to some of the age old questions such as “Does sex really sell?” or “How will consumers religion come into play?” Overall, this is one of those books that you finish reading without having any questions. Almost every question or myth that surrounds the advertising industry is addressed in this book as the truth is brought to the surface.

This book simply forces us to look at the way we communicate with consumers in a new way. The information presented in this book can be applied to branding, advertising, product management and marketing just the same. It’s a book that will give you a much better understanding of the consumers motivators to buy which will ultimately help your clients succeed. The insights that you will gain from this book are priceless. This is one you most certainly will want to pick up.

Order Buy-Ology!

Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive


If you want to learn how to influence people quickly – This is the book for you. As the title says, it will provide you with 50 scientifically proven ways to be persuasive. In a nutshell, it will show you a variety of different examples of how to get to the answer yes. The book is broken down into fifty short and easy to read chapters. I’d say each chapter is probably about 3-4 pages long which means this entire book can probably be read in one sitting.

The one thing I liked with Yes! is that the information can be related easily to an agency environment. While you flip through the pages you will begin to see how you can make simple changes to and have a more effective and persuasive work. I’ve read several psychology and business books in my day and I’d without question put this at the top of the list. It’s one of those books that advertising and marketing professionals can enjoy but one that can also be enjoyed by your average Joe. The 50 examples/insights really do make Yes! an essential business/marketing read.

Purchase Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

About Ross Simmonds

Ross Simmonds is a digital marketing strategist who has worked with everything from Fortune 500 companies to startups to drive results using digital marketing and technology.


  • […] Top advertising and marketing books you should read before taking a job in advertising […]

  • Bryan says:

    Thanks Ross. I’ll follow up on a bunch of these.


  • […] I read several books while in rosssimmonds.com […]

  • […] Top advertising and marketing books you should read before taking aThis book matches well with Ogilvy on Advertising as it outlines the importance of being visually appealing while also selling. If you’re in the business you will often see designers who are all about the look and completely forget about the goal which is to sell something. […]

  • Jan Pruijser says:

    Nice list, you have however forgot the advertising concept book. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Advertising-Concept-Book-Think-Design/dp/0500514054

  • Never heard of it until now – Thanks for sharing.. Based on the reviews, it looks solid!

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  • Dhatt says:

    Thanks Ross, great reads

  • No worries – Hope you found a good read for the New Year!

  • Wow, what a great article. Just bought 8 new books (have the rest) that will keep me busy for the next few weeks until i start my new gig… thanks for a great consolidated list!

  • […] revealed in Claude Hopkin's book, I encourage you to order today. Here is the link to buy a copy…Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins could possibly be the most important advertising book ever …g deprived of some the most profound advertising wisdom ever recorded. Despite its age (it was […]

  • Great list though i would add Peter Church’s book The Added Value – the life stories of Indian Business Leaders. Amazing insight on some truly inspirational people. 

  • […] After a year or two into my career, I wrote a post that highlighted what I considered the Best Marketing and Advertising Books on the book shelf. That brings us here… A new list, but a little shorter. These are books […]

  • Cool! I’m going to give it a look, always great to see inspiration leaders from the other side of the world. Thanks for the reco!

  • […] with as there are entire websites dedicated to creating great lists. Whether it’s a list of great advertising books or a list of the best productivity apps; lists are an easy way to generate content that readers […]

  • […] story is to develop your imagination by reading the stories of others. Whether it’s reading books about advertising or reading some of the most famous fiction novels; reading is everything. Reading is everything. […]



  • Beige Daniels says:

    I have actually purchased a few books from this list since I read your blog. I trusted your tastes and instincts, and obviously, you have great influential power over your audience! Great job, and even better books. Thanks.

  • Adam says:

    I’m surprised that Influence: Science and Pratice isn’t on this list.

  • Tom Gray says:

    Hi Ross, Appreciate the list but it’s now 4 years old. Interested to know what you’d add to the list from the past 4 years? There are a few books that I’d add to the discussion from classics like “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug on how to get out of your customer’s way on your website and “Call to Action” by the Eisenbergs about the art of the persona in web marketing and more recent works like Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational” an indispensable guide to understanding how people throw logic out the door when making buying decisions. And, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg, an amazing book that talks about how our habits – good and bad – shape our lives and how marketers work to instill new habits to support their products. Thanks for a great list!

  • Luke Davies says:

    I’d definitely add “The Trick of Advertising”

  • Peter Paluska says:

    Good solid list. I would add “Confessions of an Advertising Man” by D. Ogilvy, which is much more readable than “Ogilvy on Advertising”, and also “Reality in Advertising” by Rosser Reeves, such a simple and beautiful classic of the industry!

  • Jason Grace says:

    Confessions was head and shoulders over Ogilvy on advertising.

  • Peter Paluska says:

    I would agree! It reads almost as much as like a master’s “how-to” in advertising as it does a confessional or memoir. What do you think of “Influence” by Robert Cialdini? I just started it.

  • Jason Grace says:

    Influence is a great aerial view of popular studies in behavioral economics mixed with sales cliches. I enjoyed it, but it is more popular reading than a tacticians guide. Dan Aeriely has some great books too, on a similar context.
    I have been very fortunate to be able to make the time to research the citations and study the research done, I feel that in many cases interpretations become subjective and deviate from the objective facts which can be misguiding. Influence is good, half information, half perspective which is done in an entertaining way.
    There are much stronger resources for practical application though.

  • […] 20 Must Read Marketing and Advertising Books […]

  • Jason Grace says:

    It was good, I enjoyed it but a bit on the popular reading list compared to majority of the material I am currently reading. (Sorry, I never noticed your response.)

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