IT WASN’T GERMAN ENGINEERING ONLY THAT MADE THE VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE AN ICON. IT WAS A MANHATTAN ADVERTISING AGENCY, TOO.
Created in 1959 by Doyle Dane Bernbach and continued through the ’60s and early ’70s, the campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle is considered the best of all time. More than just promoting a car, it promoted a new kind of advertising: simple, charming, intelligent and, most of all, honest.
In “Ugly Is Only Skin-Deep,” Dominik Imseng retraces the creation of Doyle Dane Bernbach, sneered at by the big players on Madison Avenue because of the “ethnic” background of its founders and employees, who were mostly Jewish. Readers will then learn how the agency won the Volkswagen account and how an unlikely creative team—copywriter Julian Koenig and art director Helmut Krone—set the tone for the most admired campaign in advertising history. Finally, the book examines the evolution of the Volkswagen campaign and how advertising greats such as Bob Levenson, Len Sirowitz, Roy Grace or Bob Kuperman managed to convince more and more Americans that smaller was better. In fact, the Volkswagen campaign didn’t only fundamentally change the ethos of advertising—it also helped trigger the cultural revolution of the 1960s.