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Volkswagen of America ads, 1960–68

Contributed by Nick Sherman on Aug 18th, 2012. Artwork published in .
    “Lemon.”
    Source: http://ateliertally.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Lemon.”

    One of the most iconic and popular ad campaigns of all time – the subject of a new book, Think Small: The Story of the World’s Greatest Ad.

    From a 1968 interview with designer Helmut Krone:

    Krone: […] The only thing different about [the Volkswagen ad layout] was its application to cars—and that’s different enough. I took traditional layout A, which had always existed: 2/3 picture, 1/3 copy, three blocks with a headline in between. But I changed the picture. The picture was naked-looking, not full and lush. The other small change was the copy, which was sans serif rather than serif.

    Interviewer: And nobody’d ever done that before?

    Krone: Not with that layout, no. It was an editorial look, but with sans serif type.

    Interviewer: The look of the copy was very different. The use of “widows” which we spoke of once before.

    Krone: I actually cut those “widows” into the first Volkswagen ads with a razor blade and asked Julian Koenig to write that way. I deliberately kept the blocks from being solid, and when I felt that a sentence could be cut in half I suggested it just to make another paragraph.

    “Going, going…”
    Source: http://www.greatvwads.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Going, going…”

    “£196.”
    Source: http://www.greatvwads.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    “£196.”

    “It’s ugy, but it gets you there.”
    Source: http://www.greatvwads.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    “It’s ugy, but it gets you there.”

    “Think small.”
    Source: http://ateliertally.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Think small.”

    “Repair ’em? I’ve got enough parts to build ’em!”
    Source: http://books.google.com LIFE Magazine, Feb 8, 1960. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Repair ’em? I’ve got enough parts to build ’em!”

    “Impossible.” Car and Driver, Aug 1961
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Scan by SenseiAlan. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Impossible.” Car and Driver, Aug 1961

    “The 1962½ Volkswagen.”  Car And Driver, Mar 1962
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Scan by SenseiAlan. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “The 1962½ Volkswagen.” Car And Driver, Mar 1962

    “Do you think the Volkswagen is homely?” Sports Car Illustrated, Nov 1960
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Scan by SenseiAlan. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Do you think the Volkswagen is homely?” Sports Car Illustrated, Nov 1960

    “Never.” Car and Driver, Nov 1961
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Scan by SenseiAlan. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Never.” Car and Driver, Nov 1961

    “Cheap new. Expensive used.”, 1962.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Uploaded to Flickr by Bart Solenthaler and tagged with “futura”. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Cheap new. Expensive used.”, 1962.

    “Why does the Volkswagen have 4 forward speeds?” Car and Driver, Mar 1963
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Scan by SenseiAlan. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Why does the Volkswagen have 4 forward speeds?” Car and Driver, Mar 1963

    “Will we ever kill the bug?”, 1965.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Uploaded to Flickr by Bart Solenthaler and tagged with “futura”. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Will we ever kill the bug?”, 1965.

    “No. It will not replace the bug.” Ad for the Volkswagen Fastback Sedan, 1965.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Uploaded to Flickr by Bart Solenthaler and tagged with “futura”. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “No. It will not replace the bug.” Ad for the Volkswagen Fastback Sedan, 1965.

    “Has the Volkswagen fad died out?” Readers Digest, Mar 1966
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Scan by SenseiAlan. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Has the Volkswagen fad died out?” Readers Digest, Mar 1966

    “Ugly is only skin-deep”, 1966.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Scan by Bart Solenthaler. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Ugly is only skin-deep”, 1966.

    “They laughed”, 1966.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Uploaded to Flickr by Bart Solenthaler and tagged with “futura”. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “They laughed”, 1966.

    “Our beauty. Will it spoil the Volkswagen image?” Ad for the Volkswagen Fastback Sedan, 1967.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Scan by Bart Solenthaler. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Our beauty. Will it spoil the Volkswagen image?” Ad for the Volkswagen Fastback Sedan, 1967.

    “Volkswagen introduces the automatic stick shift”, 1968.
    Source: https://www.flickr.com Uploaded to Flickr by Bart Solenthaler and tagged with “futura”. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Volkswagen introduces the automatic stick shift”, 1968.

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    3 Comments on “Volkswagen of America ads, 1960–68”

    1. Dominik Imseng has written a book that includes an in-depth history of the “Think Small” ad, including many interviews.

    2. Dustin Hoffman starred in a VW TV spot during this era:

    3. Another book about this campaign, recommended by reader Joe Clark, is Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?.

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