In my recent history class, entitled “Gender Through Mad Men” (Yes, Madmen the show. Yes, it is awesome. Yes, it’s a dream come true for an advertising/history/tv geek like myself), we talked about the evolution of the VW Beetle. VW has been featured on this blog before, and for good reason: They keep coming back for more. VW might just be the brand that never dies. A true underdog. They went from Nazi car to love bug, to super safe family-friendly vehicle. I absolutely love it. Take this quote from George Lois, who was assigned the Volkswagen account at DDB Advertising:
“It was hard to forget that Hitler himself was directly involved in designing the Volkswagen. Even though the Fuehrer was helped along by the Austrian car engineer… the cute Volkswagen in 1959 reminded lots of people about the ovens. Julian [Koenig, who wrote the first round of copy for the campaign] was Jewish and wouldn’t forget it.”*
So how did VW shake this bad rep? By advertising, of course! I think the VW advertisements are one of the most iconic sets of adverts of all time. Seriously. Not only do they not take themselves too seriously, but they also play on each other. The first round of advertisements look like this:
How awesome are these? This is why DDB can’t be forgotten. They completely ditched the advertising patterns of the 1950s, and did the exact opposite. And it worked. People forgot the connection with the Nazis, and instead associated the VW with those funny little ads.
To me, there’s one aspect of the 1960s ads that tops them all: I KNOW IT.
I’m a Generation Y kid. A Millennial Baby. Yet, I know these ads. These ads are so funny, so iconic, so against the grain, that even I, a 21 year-old college student knows them.
In the 90’s, they did the same thing. One advert read “”If you sold your soul in the ’80s, here’s your chance to buy it back.”
Awesome. Remind people of that camping trip they took in the VW bus in the 60s, when Dad came home with the funny-looking German car. In the 90s, VW took great advantage of their target consumer: Generation X. They grew up with the bug. They might have forgotten it, but remind them!
And finally, we come to the present time. This is my favorite:
They do nostalgia: It’s the exact same thing they did in the 90s, but in a different way.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I love this commercial and everything it represents.
* Frank, Thomas. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. Page 67.