Classic Advertising: DDB & Volkswagen

DDB Volkswagon Lemon Advertisement If you listen to Terry O’Reilly‘s Age of Persuasion on CBC radio, you will have heard about the famous Volkswagen ad campaign by DDB in the 1960s, as this is one of Terry’s all-time favorite campaigns. It remains a classic advertising campaign to this day.

Volkswagen signed with DDB in 1959, appointing them to handle their account in the USA. Some say Bill Bernbach‘s resulting campaign for the Vokswagen Beetle permanently changed the face of advertising as it handed a whole string of awards. Today, it’s even the subject of a book.

Bill Bernbach The very quotable Bernbach challenged convention in a gutsy move advertising a vehicle as a lemon (click the image to see a large version and read the copy). The particular Volkswagen in the ad was deemed a “lemon” because of a minor imperfection in a piece of chrome on the glove box, one that the consumer would likely never notices. But Volkswagen, the ad reports, has more quality inspectors than it produces cars in a day.

In the ’60s, Bernbach challenged convention and turned it on its head: simply brilliant. If a client gives adequate flexibility and trusts its creative team in the ad campaign, it allows for this sort of groundbreaking work. Sadly, too many clients today tend to hamstring the people who dream up this stuff, and the resulting ad campaigns are mediocre at best. The few that turn their creatives loose tend to be the standouts.