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Vintage VW Ads Are Still #1

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Vintage VW Ads Are Still #1

Post by Scribla »

I still remember seeing classic print ads like these in old stacks of National Geographics my dad left up in the attic. I think it was the first time I ever took notice of advertising and realised that they could actually be amusing and clever. And as I learned more about marketing and branding I soon learned more about the psychology behind it and how truly ingenious some of these original Madmen actually were. And vintage Volkswagen marketing campaigns of that era are, hands down, the best of the bunch.

Even now, decades later in a jaded era of clickbait and ad blindness, they still make you look, they still grab your attention, and they still reel you in...


And anyone who ever says the headline isn't important or the words don't matter, or copywriting is just a process you can outsource blindly and cheaply, I love to show them these examples to change their minds. They clearly demonstrates the impact of good writing (with imagery) as well the importance of conveying a sense of what your product is and stands for, clearly and honestly, as these guys did, often with brutal honesty and humour.

Of course you don't get more brutal than Volkswagen's original benefactor, yet in spite of all this the post-war times the company still managed to break into the US market and the brand became synonymous with freedom, expression and the new counterculture. And why not? A machine is just a machine and those machines genuinely brought joy to millions. Still doesn't diminish the fact that it was the PR coup of the century.
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Re: Vintage VW Ads Are Still #1

Post by SARubin »

Love these old ads. Brilliant stuff. We just don't see this kind of creative campaign very much anymore.

I remember hearing a story about when the Volkswagen guys were first trying to break into the U.S. market with their tiny car...

At the brainstorming session the consensus was it would never sell because it was slow and ugly. One guy even said "it looks like a bug for god sake".

But then another guy (it might've even been Bill Bernbach himself) saw the potential of brutal honesty and an emerging market of Baby Boomers trying to break the chains of their parents reality.
And rather than obscure the fact that it looked like a "bug" they named it the VW Beetle, and highlighted fact that it was small and ugly, but it was reliable and fuel efficient.

Not sure how true the story is because I wasn't there. But it sounds like it could be true, and I choose to believe it because it's so damn inspirational from a marketing point of view.

I believe the first VW bugs didn't even come with a gas gauge because the mileage was so good that if you ever ran out of fuel you could just switch to the reserve (about a gallon in the reserve tank) and drive another 50 miles to find a petrol station.
A good marketer knows how to think like a marketer - A great marketer learns how to think like the customer...
SARubin - Direct Response Copywriter / Conversion Flow Specialist
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