Bill Bernbach is the reason I became an adman.
He was the man credited with leading the creative revolution in the 1960′s, working as the CD at Doyle Dane Bernbach in New York City. The agency created legendary campaigns for VW, Avis, American Airlines, Samsonite Luggage, Levi’s Bread, Jamaica Tourism, Chivas Regal and dozens more.
The Volkswagen Beetle campaign is the one that inspired me to pursue advertising. Each ad read like a friend politely telling the truth, admitting faults, having a wry sense of humor and encouraging empathy.
The VW ads did not boast, they merely spoke in an interesting and human way. They stood out like a splotch of red paint on a gray canvas because advertising at the time was mostly bombastic chest-thumping and flowery, adjective-heavy B.S.
Bernbach brought humanity and humor to advertising, and for a young man who loved to write but didn’t much like the idea of being a starving artist, Bill B. became a beacon for the career path that I would pursue.
When I got out of college, I quickly went to New York to see if I could get into DDB. Nope. I couldn’t even get through the gatekeepers. Of course, I can’t blame them. I had nothing to show but my enthusiasm, naiveté and a bad case of hero worship.
I had my own journey to take, and Bernbach was the inspiration.
August 13, 2011 was the centennial celebration of Bill Bernbach’s birth. 100 years ago yesterday, a man was born who changed the game for all.
Bernbach said many great things, and I recently came across one of my favorites: We are too busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it.
Today, those words are truer than ever. As more business people are filled with fear and apprehension, they tend to seek comfort and security in research and numbers. Politicians do the same. They play for the polls.
But Bernbach believed advertising is an art, not a science. Humans are driven by emotion and touching emotion is done through art, not science.
We all need to remember this, practice our art and be more human.