July 25, 2019
If you don’t have 3 minutes to read this blog, then take 18 minutes to watch “Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?” on YouTube. It has everything you need to know about what we’re about to launch into.
Back to the blog.
Let’s start by specifying that when we say the story of advertising is the story of VW, we’re talking about the ads. Not just the cars.
“Lemon” was one of the first ads for VW, created in the ‘60s by the messiah of advertising, Bill Bernbach, and his team at DDB (check out All The Great Mad Men Era Volkswagen Ads on Buzzfeed).
It revolutionized advertising.
In a Mad Men world where every product was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and where doctors endorsed cigarettes and vacuum cleaners saved marriages, the DDB team basically called the VW Beetle a complete flop in a full-page ad (the payoff being that since they found a blemish on the glove compartment, the car wouldn’t be sold).
It was desperately simple and brutally honest. And it did so much more than just turn a negative into a positive for the car itself. It turned a problem into a solution for the car company as a whole.
Because in a country where bigger was always better, VW told people to “Think small”. And they did.
The Beetle became the smart car to buy. And the brilliantly self-deprecating ads kept the good times rolling.
Since then, many agencies have worked on VW campaigns, and it’s safe to say the DDB legacy has lived on.
But then something happened.
A few years ago, the Volkswagen emissions scandal rocked the automotive industry. Disaster? Yes. Betrayal? Absolutely. The end of the brand? Not so sure.
Needless to say, it was pretty much all quiet on the VW front in terms of advertising for a while. And rightfully so.
And then bam! The “Drive bigger” campaign launched a few months ago with a mea culpa from the company and the introduction of a fully-electric camper van – launching a new era of electric while staying true to the VW heritage (watch the video on VW’s YouTube page).
So is all forgiven for VW? Only time will tell.
But for creatives around the world, the story of advertising is still the story of VW, simply because it has everything:
An underdog product. A visionary creative team. Truth in advertising. Risk-taking clients. Scandal. Betrayal. Redemption. And of course, decades of awe-inspiring ads.