Advertising: Volkswagen Breaks the Rules

The New York Times, May 27, 1962

Updated: October 04, 2012

This article provides a look into advertising campaign initiated by Volkswagen of America in 1959. In the American automotive market of the early 1960s, Volkswagen competed mainly with other foreign companies to sell small cars because at the time, American automakers hadn't yet ventured into this segment of the market. The quirky ‘think small’ and ‘lemon’ ads designed by Doyle Dane Bernbach for the German automaker share an underlying message, argues the author of this piece – that Volkswagen cars are made to last. This unusual advertising approach was later taken up by other advertising agencies and car companies in the 1960s. 

 “ ‘Some American cars,’ [Robert Levenson] notes, ‘try to sell the image, rather than the merchandise. That’s why you get the country club backgrounds and the people in formals.’ In contrast to these elaborate backgrounds, the Volkswagen ads have rarely contained anything but the car itself. And these advertisements seem to have more than sufficed. For, though other foreign cars may come and go, the German ‘beetle’ keeps climbing its way up the sales charts.”

Article available through ProQuest (subscription required)

Bart, Peter. "Advertising: Volkswagen Breaks the Rules." The New York Times, May 27, 1962, p. F12.

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