This 1960s advertising campaign for Volkswagen Beetle did much more than boost sales and built a lifetime of the brand loyalty. Due to it (and the work of the agency behind it), the very nature of advertising was changed. Unless you are an advertising professional, you probably do not know much about the advertising campaign for Volkswagen Beetle. Thus, here is its brief overview.
In order to introduce the Beetle to the U.S. market, Volkswagen hired Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) ad agency. The advertising campaign for Volkswagen Beetle, created by DDB, perfectly positioned the product and won the hearts and minds of the masses.
Before the advertising campaign for Volkswagen Beetle, ads were either information-based and lacking in persuasiveness, more fantasy than reality, or relied on the medium's ability to deliver a repeated exposure. Being breathtakingly simple, Beetle ads, connected with consumers on an emotional level, also conveyed a product benefit in a way consumers could relate to. That was the thing that made the advertising campaign for Volkswagen Beetle so radical.
It was illustrated by two famous print ads: one featured a small picture of the car with the headline "Think small" (the text highlighted the advantages of driving the small Beetle versus a big car); the other presented the car with "Lemon" in a bold type (the ad copy explained that the chrome strip on the glove compartment was blemished and had to be replaced. The message was obvious. If it was Volkswagen's idea of a lemon, the Beetle must be a well-built car).
The Beetle ad campaign also stands out for its use of television, which made the emotional connection between the car and consumers. The picture of "Funeral" was perfect in the Beetle commercials.
During a funeral procession, the voice of the deceased bequeaths his fortune. He leaves nothing to each, from his wife and sons to business partners, as they were wasteful with money. However, to a tearful young man in the Volkswagen Beetle at the end of line, the voiceover intones: "To my nephew, Harold, who often said `A penny saved is a penny earned' and `it surely pays to own a Volkswagen,' I leave my entire fortune of one hundred billion dollars."
Year after year, the advertising campaign for Volkswagen Beetle imparted its message of frugality and sensibility. Such clarity and emotion the ad world had never seen before.
In the 1960s, DDB was also churning out other memorable ad campaigns, like Avis rental cars. Its "We try harder" was hugely successful.
It is easy to imagine what happened next. DDB's approach to ad making was imitated by many other ad agencies. This movement is now referred to by the industry professionals as the creative revolution. It was creativity that counted most in the 60's.
The example of Volkswagen Beetle ad campaign showed us the lasting impact DDB had on the ad industry and what we see as consumers today. DDB was the first agency to pioneer the concept of art directors and copywriters working together.
Many great advertising campaigns have come along since 1900. Nevertheless, none has had a more lasting and crucial impact than the campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle.