Bill Bernbach’s Advertising Wisdom

by buildingpharmabrands


As the single most influential creative force in advertising’s history, William Bernbach (August 13, 1911 – October 2, 1982), served as an inspiring father figure to some of advertising’s most brilliant talents. A conservative in his dress and manner, Bernbach is known for his fresh, relevant and unpretentious ideas.

Notable campaigns of Bernbach are: We Try Harder for Avis Car Rental, Mikey for Life Cereal, You don’t have to be Jewish to Love Levy’s for Levy’s Rye Bread, and it’s so simple for Polaroid, and Think Small and Lemon for Volkswagen.

After Bill Bernbach’s death in October 1982, Harper’s wrote that Bill Bernbach probably had a greater impact on American culture than any of the distinguished writers and artists who have appeared in the pages of Harper’s during the past 133 years. He emerged as No. 1 on Advertising Age’s 20th Century Honor roll of advertising’s most influential people.

The following twenty quotes present an insight into the legendary ad man’s advertising wisdom and brilliance.

  1. The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.
  2. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.
  3. Because an appeal makes a logical sense is no guarantee that it will work.
  4. A great campaign will make a product fail faster. It will get more people know it’s bad.
  5. Forget words like hard sell and soft sell. That will only confuse you. Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying like it’s never been said before.
  6. Just because your ad looks great is no insurance that it will get looked at. How many people do you know who are impeccably groomed.. but dull?
  7. No matter how skillful you are, you can’t invent a product advantage that doesn’t exist. And if you do, and if it’s just a gimmick, it’s going to fall apart anyway.
  8. Advertising doesn’t create a product advantage. It can only convey it.
  9. Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.
  10. In advertising not to be different is virtually suicidal.
  11. It is insight into human nature that is the key to communicator’s skill. For whereas the writer is concerned with what he puts into his writings, the communicator is concerned with what the reader gets out of it. He therefore, becomes a student of how people read or listen.
  12. In communication, familiarity breeds apathy.
  13. Our job is to bring the dead facts to life.
  14. Our job is to sell our client’s merchandise…not ourselves. Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product. Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message.
  15. Word of mouth is the best medium of all.
  16. If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you.
  17. Adapt your techniques to an idea, not an idea to your techniques.
  18. We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it. We are so busy listening to statistics that we forget we can create them.
  19. Rules are what the artist breaks; the memorable never emerged from a formula.
  20. The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, and freshly.

Click here to watch, listen and learn about the essence of advertising from Bill Bernbach.