Doyle Dane Bernbach

Advertising agency that developed the “Think Small” campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle

Updated: September 20, 2012

With its innovative campaigns, the Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) advertising agency has made an impact on advertising since the 1950s. DDB was founded in Manhattan by Ned Doyle, Bill Bernbach, and Maxwell Dane in June 1949. The three founders all had distinct roles within the agency. Dane was in charge of the administrative and promotional aspects, Doyle was in charge of the accounts and client service, and Bernbach, as the creative director, was responsible for developing advertising campaigns. Their first ads were developed for Ohrbach’s department store, a client who was taken over from Bernbach’s former employer Grey Advertising.

DDB’s breakthrough came with the Volkswagen account in 1959. The campaign which popularized the Beetle was called “Think Small.” It was characterized by its simplicity and focus on the Beetle’s small form, which was in stark contrast to most of the cars sold in the United States at that time. Therefore, DDB’s campaign also addressed a certain sense of humor. “Think Small” was ranked as the best advertising campaign of all time Advertising Age’s 1999 article “The Century of Advertising.”

Following the success of its VW advertising campaign in the American market, in 1961 DDB went on to establish its first international office in West Germany which worked in cooperation with the VW parent company in Wolfsburg. Through this transatlantic cooperation, DDB worked with advertising professionals within VW headquarters to begin adapting the car company’s more traditional methods with the DDB style. Later in the 1960s, additional DDB offices were opened across Europe.


Selected Bibliography

Frank, Thomas. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Jackall, Robert and Janice M. Hirota. Image Makers: Advertising, Public Relations, and the Ethos of Advocacy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

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