A classic ad campaign that is professional creative work still to this day is the Volkswagen Bug ads created by Doyle Dane Bernbach agency with Bill Bernbach leading the creative department. I have focused on the ad titled “Impossible” from the campaign. I found the ad through a BuzzFeed article. I knew that I wanted to discuss the VW campaign so I went straight to Google to find it… that brought me to BuzzFeed. Don’t judge the source… the information is relevant.

Most cars in the 1960s were advertised as bigger, bigger & bigger. Bigger was better. It was revolutionary for the VW Bug to be advertised as “small” in the 1960s. This strategy of advertising was startling and risky. The advertising methods used are functional planned adolescence and Ernest Calkin’s “The Look of the Ad”. The use of functional planned adolescence in the ad advertises that the Volkswagen Bug is using new technology that replaces what was used in previous models making consumers want the new convenience promised. Ernest Calkin’s “The Look of the Ad” strategy states “impossible” followed by a photo of a car broken down, gaining a reader’s attention due to their curiosity.

The intended audience for this ad is adults who are in need of an automobile that won’t have engine problems in the middle of winter nor the hottest day of the year. The ad shows a picture of a man who looks to be in the upper class, employed, and possibly between the ages of 20-50, suggesting that the average consumer will hold the same standards.

The target message is that the VW Bug is a new automobile that won’t have engine problems. The need of the target audience is to have a car that can be reliable. The newly traveling culture was in need of reliable automobiles. Suburbs began to develop outside of cities resulting in citizens having to travel to work. Families are also beginning to be more spread out. The Volkswagen ad is letting the public know that they can trust the 1961 model of their Volkswagen to get them to their desired destination.

The single most important thing being communicated in the ad: The VW Bug is reliable and new.

The photo of a VW Bug broken down with a man standing in front of the car with a body language that looks as if he is saying “really?” gains a reader’s attention due to curiosity. The ad communicates the fact that a middle-aged man between the ages of 20-50 who has an upper or middle class job does not have the time for their car to have engine troubles. The visual supports the idea that VW understands the situation and will not let their cars do this to you… you will not be like the man featured in the ad.

The copy is very important to the ad. The bolded and centered word “impossible” is used to gain a reader’s attention due to curiosity. A reader reads on to the body copy to understand what is “impossible.” The copy explains why it is impossible for the Bug to break down. Instead of complex car words the ad speaks in a tone that is relatable to readers. The sentences are simple and sometimes amusing. The copy communicates that the VW Bug is impossible to breakdown. This statement is supported by simple, easy to understand, facts about the engine.

I would assume that the context of the print advertisement was magazines. Bernbach realized that print ads did not always work so he reinvented the embellished illustrations used by competing agencies. His reinvention consisted of black and white, untouched photographs of VW Bugs. The ads were witty, unique and innovated compared to other magazine ads. I believe that readers who flipped through magazines filled with color and bold copy were taken aback when they came across a VW Bug ad. The bluntness of the ad is sure to draw attention from readers who will then read the most important message: that the VW Bug is reliable.


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