Bill Bernbach


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The joint founder of the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency in New York in 1949. Often regarded as the most influential figure in the 20th-century advertising industry, Bernbach is remembered for his creative campaigns characterized by their freshness, relevance, lack of pretension, and tonal harmony between product and copy. ‘Advertising doesn't create a product advantage. It can only convey it’, was a typical Bernbach view of the advertising industry. He was an advocate of advertising as an art form and the (then) radical notion that the general public was intelligent. Underlying respect for the public, in his view, would encourage favourable reactions to intelligent and imaginative advertising. Bernbach always insisted on first learning how his client's products related to their users, and what human qualities and emotions came into play. The next stage was to decide on how best to communicate those elements to the consumers through various media channels, gaining the consumers' understanding and support. His most legendary campaign was for Volkswagen's introduction to the USA, involving a range of print and TV commercials. In print, VW's ‘Think Small’ ad challenged the acquisitive tendencies that had been characteristic of American advertising in the 1950s. The Beetle became the first successful import car and the ad campaign altered the overall approach to advertising for all time. He had very successful TV advertising campaigns: Volkswagen's ‘Funeral’ and ‘Snow plow’ stories as part of the overall Volkswagen campaign; ‘Mamma mia’ and ‘Poached oyster’ for Alka-Seltzer; ‘Visit to Grandpa’ plus Laurence Olivier for Polaroid; ‘Italian wedding’ for Rheingold beer; ‘Mikey’ for Life cereal; ‘Gorilla’ for American Tourister luggage; ‘Card game’ and ‘Sharing,’ with Jack Gilford, for Cracker Jack; ‘Burning egg’ for GTE; and stop-motion ‘Contrasts’ for the Jamaica Tourist Board. See also advertising; brand. See appendix 2 for more on the Volkswagen campaign.

Subjects: Marketing.

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