The first iconic VW ad


How to advertise a challenger brand, 101.

Above are the two main ads that launched the Volkswagen brand in America. “Lemon” ad copy starts: “This Volkswagen missed the boat. The chrome strip on the glove compartment is blemished, and must be replaced.”

It was shocking, to say the least, for an auto brand to call their car a lemon. What made the ad even more appealing than the shock value, was that the Bug was in fact (and still is) shaped like a lemon.

To say “Think Small” with regard to autos in 1960 was revolutionary. Most American car ads from the era looked exactly like this. Bigger was better, the bigger the better.

But Volkswagen never shied away from this startling, risky strategy. This worked out pretty damn well for them.

VW’s ad agency was Doyle Dane Bernbach, with the great Bill Bernbach leading the creative department