Think small, think different – how Volkswagen and Apple changed the advertising industry. Forever.

Jed Skrzypczyk

Jed Skrzypczyk

Sometimes the ideas change the world. And sometimes a brilliant concept changes the market forever. It is no different in advertising. In the course of history, there were many game-changing commercials. Let’s take a look at the two most significant ads that changed the history!

Sometimes the ideas change the world. And sometimes a brilliant concept changes the market forever. It is no different in advertising. In the course of history, there were many game-changing commercials. Let’s take a look at the two most significant ads that changed the history!

When Volkswagen approached DDB to help them sell their Type 1 car (commonly known as the “Beetle”), they had a hard nut to crack. How to sell a small, ugly, made by Nazis cheap car to the American people – living in post-war prosperity, dreaming of the bright future with their true-American muscle cars like Chrysler or Plymouth? By that time advertisers from Madison Avenue had a pretty simple way to sell – they pointed out the benefits of “their” product, showing why it’s better than the competition’s. At the same time very often they showed an idealized world to convince the clients that the product will improve their life.

But “Beetle” was cheap and nothing like Ford Mustang. So Helmut Krone and Julian Koenig from DDB decided to go with simplicity and honesty. In the post-WWII world minimalism was the new way of making art – raw, simple, but powerful and beautiful. In the advertisement it was clearly visible in Paul Rand’s works from whom the artists drew inspiration. Krone and Koenig came up with “Think small.” idea and combined it with a traditional layout with unconventional illustration – small picture instead of big drawing. Black and white instead of the eye-catching colorful palette. Dot after the short sentence. Raw, simple and beautifully straightforward.

That’s how it started – the series of brilliant, beautiful, fun and unconventional posters. Over the time DDB made hundreds of Volkswagen ads (along with legendary “Lemon.” piece). The agency still runs their campaigns, using almost the same layout as in the 50s. Their style inspired many big players, like Apple with their “Think different.” approach and they changed the way the commercials are made forever. In the 20th century, “Beetle” was the best-selling car in the world.

But before they used famous “Think different.” slogan for the first time in 1997, Apple Inc. already turned the ad industry upside down. In the early 80s, they were a pretty successful company. They went public and developed a few interesting computers, but they were still behind IBM, which dominated the market. Getting ready for the debut of the first mass-produced PC with a graphic user interface, Macintosh, Apple knew they had to end IBM’s domination.

The company decided to show this technological monopoly as a dystopian world, full of minions following and listening to the big screen. The Chiat/Day Agency hired director Ridley Scott, who was already known for his two science fiction films – Alien and Blade Runner (that eventually became classics). They drew inspiration from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 in which enslaved people are controlled by Big Brother and his thought police. The similarities were obvious.

In the commercial itself, this order is disrupted by the nameless heroine, carrying a sledgehammer and running from the officers towards the big screen with Big Brother-like figure on it. Eventually, she throws a hammer towards it, destroying the screen, while people freeze in astonishment. The voiceover says: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984”. Black screen with the Apple logo. The end. The rest is history.

Apple did everything perfectly. They created the amazing ad directed by one of the greatest talents in cinema. They bought a slot during Super Bowl, the most-watched television program in the US. However there’s one thing they didn’t do – they didn’t show the product, which was almost revolutionary then. But it only raised the curiosity around the new Apple product, which debuted two days after airing becoming a huge success.

The two ads are very different, but they have one thing in common – they turned the advertising industry upside down. Brilliant minds from DDB and Chiat/Day in cooperation with their ambitious clients created watershed moments not only for their brands but the whole market. Combining few revolutionary approaches, and – most of all – distinguishing themselves from the competition, Volkswagen and Apple became one of the top players in their game. And they stayed there till now.

Jed Skrzypczyk
Creative Producer


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