My Favourite Ad

This ad first got my attention while I was in high school. I was snooping around my then art room and came across a dusty old Advertising Annual.

I recall the year 10, pimple-faced, naive teenager reading this one word headline and saying: “I don’t get it…Why would VW call their own car a Lemon?” That all changed once I read on. It was that moment I was introduced the art of copywriting and decided that I needed to be in advertising.

No wonder Mad Men’s Don Draper is in awe of this 1960’s ad when he speaks to his team. The introduction of this strange shaped car to the US market would’ve been so far from the norm and would’ve raised eyebrows.

Most car ads looked like this with the classic art direction – but no other cars looked like this. Other car companies like Chevy and Ford were producing the largest cars ever and were selling them with models wearing tuxedos and cocktails dresses. Volkswagon told people to ‘think small’.

For the rest of the decade they kept this daring and unconventional ad campaign rolling. Their strategy of turning so called ‘faults’ into benefits was a massive hit, and left the other car companies so far in the dust they never really caught up.

Lesson here? Be brave.


If you struggle to read the copy above, here it is.

Headline – Lemon.
Body copy –
The Volkswagen missed the boat.
The chrome strip on the glove compartment is blemished and must be replaced. Chances are you wouldn’t have noticed it; Inspector Kurt Kroner did.
There are 3,389 men of our Wolfsburg factory with only one job; to inspect Volkswagens at each stage of production. (3,000 Volkswagens are produced daily; there are more inspectors than cars.)
Every shock absorber is tested (spot checking won’t do), every windshield is scanned. VWs have been rejected for surface scratches barely visible to the eye.
Final inspection is really something! VW inspectors run each car off the line onto the Funktionsprüfstand (car test stand), tote up 189 check points, gun ahead to the automatic brake stand and say “no” to one VW out of fifty.
This preoccupation with detail means the VW lasts longer and requires less maintenance, by and large, than other cars. (It also means a used VW depreciates less than any other car.)
We pluck the lemons; you get the plums.