I have recently been watching box sets of Mad Men – a TV series set in the early 1960s in an advertising office on Madison Avenue, New York. It’s beautifully stylish and the drama’s not bad either, but most of all, it has begun to make me appreciate advertisements a lot more.
The advertising company Doyle Dane Bernbach were the ones responsible for Volkswagen’s iconic campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s. William Bernbach had realised something very important early on in his career: advertising did not sell a product. The purpose of his VW ad campaigns was not to attract the customers who had already decided they were uninterested in buying Volkswagen, but to turn the existing clients into brand ambassadors.
The fact that in 1960, the German motor company’s budget for advertising was a mere $800,000 meant that DDB’s creative director Helmut Krone was required to pioneer the idea of simplicity in print media advertising – going very much against the grain of advertising at the time. His repeated use of photographs as opposed to the embellished illustrations used traditionally by competing agencies, spawned comfortably-consistent, yet unique, print ads that met DDB’s goal of making a stark departure from existing advertisement techniques.
It soon transpired that Volkswagen advertisements had higher readership scores than the editorials in many publications.
I absolutely love the gender stereotyping in this one: