"Think Small." Volkswagen, 1962
With the cultural and social upheavals of the 1960s came a similar period of revolution in the advertising industry, embodied most clearly by Volkswagen’s 1962 “Think Small” campaign by Doyle Dane Bernbach. The campaign featured print ads picturing the iconic, unusual Volkswagen car accompanied by pithy copy and witty headlines that caught the attention of readers and appealed to their intellect and appreciation of candor. The most famous ad of the campaign showed a picture of a perfectly normal-looking Volkswagen above a large headline reading “Lemon.” Underneath, the copy proceeded to explain that the Volkswagen pictured above had been stalled at the factory due to a production imperfection, telling consumers that at Volkswagen, they “pluck the lemons; you get the plums.”
Between the witty, self-effacing copy and the minimalist pictures featured in the ads, the Volkswagen campaign defied advertising conventions in every way, representing a watershed moment in the Creative Revolution that was sweeping across the industry. Throughout the 1950s, advertising had gained an increasingly poor reputation for being exploitive, unimaginative, and misleading to consumers. Within the industry, agencies were becoming mired in ineffective use of market research, brainstorming techniques, and organizational roadblocks. With Doyle Dane Bernbach and the Volkswagen campaign came a breath of fresh air, as the ads were honest, modest, and genuine in every way.