Think Small

by buildingpharmabrands


Bill Bernbach said that advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not science but an art. He broke the rules of advertising and created ads that stood out from the rest. He believed that if an ad looked like others, it would get lost in the crowd. The creation of ads that looked distinctly or even drastically different from the competition can clearly be seen in the Volkswagen Think Small campaign.

This creative differentiation helped Volkswagen and the advertising agency as most car advertisements were similar in the 1960s. Consider these tag lines of some of the leading automobile brands at that time for example:

You’ve got to drive it to believe it – Oldsmobile

Filled with grace and great new things – Buick

You make your ‘someday’ come true now – Buick

You can observe the Bernbach’s creative formula, which is known for a big picture in the top two-thirds of the ad space and headline and copy in the remaining bottom third with a great deal of white space. He once said that advertising was bringing dead facts to life and making them memorable, describing the importance of a message’s presentation and delivery along with the message itself.

Here’s the brilliantly persuasive copy of the 1959 Volkswagen ad:

Our little car isn’t so much of a novelty any more.

A couple of dozen college kids don’t try to squeeze inside it.

The guy at the gas station doesn’t ask where the gas goes.

Nobody even stares at our shape.

In fact, some people who drive our little flivver don’t even think 32 miles to the gallon is going any great guns.

Or using five pints of oil instead of five quarts.

Or rocking up 40,000 miles on a set of tires.

That’s because once you get used to some of our economies, you don’t even think about them any more.

Except when you squeeze into a small parking spot. Or renew your small insurance. Or pay a small repair bill. Or trade your old VW for a new one.

Think it over.

The Think Small campaign was a great challenge because DDB (Doyle Dane Bernbach) was a Jewish advertising agency that had to sell an ugly car that was being manufactured in a plant built by the Nazis. Just think how many challenges are involved in creating this winning, memorable, and loved campaign that was greatly effective.

Can you draw inspiration from this and develop persuasive copy and layout for your leave-behind literatures, visual aids, ads on the iPad, and in the cyberspace to grab the attention of your target audience and sustain it to persuade them?