6 Of The Most Influential Print Ads In History

Volkswagen Think Small ad

The advertising industry has gone through its fair share of trials and tribulations that we are able to learn a whole lot from. The brave writers, designers, and art directors before us set the stage for the print ad industry standards we admire today. So, we’re going to talk about some of the best and most effective print ad campaigns that have shaped the print marketing world into what it is today.

1.) Volkswagen: Think Small

Volkswagen Think Small ad

Image source: https://valcort.com/the-top-15-iconic-marketing-campaigns-in-history/

In the 1950s, Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) was an agency tasked with promoting small, cheap, and very foreign Volkswagen cars in the United States at a time when the whole country had fallen in love with luxury boat style cars. Prior to their 1959 campaign, American cars were considered big statements of power and fashion. Volkswagen went in the total opposite direction which turned out to be the right move!

DDB crafted a very unexpectedly successful work of advertising art by combining simple imagery, risky typefaces (heading and body text is a sans-serif typeface, while copy up until this time had been set in serif typefaces.) and black ink. The print ad screams honesty and simplicity and the American public agreed! To this day, the company even follows a similar ad style, so don’t fix what isn’t broken, right?

The Takeaway: Don’t try and advertise your company, product or service as something it’s not. Consumers will recognize and appreciate your honesty!


2.) Miss Clairol: “Does she or doesn’t she?”  

Clairol - Does She or Doesn't She Ad

Image source: https://valcort.com/the-top-15-iconic-marketing-campaigns-in-history/

In 1956 Clairol was in a dilemma. Their new Miss Clairol “hair color bath” was a do-it-yourself solution to fighting those pesky grey hairs. But the problem was, at that time dying hair was something that stage performers and streetwalkers did but not your every-day woman. So how would they make their hair color bath appeal to the masses?

Fortunately for Clairol, In came Shirley Polykoff, who was the sole female copywriter at Foote, Cone & Belding. Being a woman, she understood the importance of reassuring customers that they would achieve a natural look from the product. Thus, the tagline “Does she…or doesn’t she?” was born! Her stroke of genius still remains one of the most successful slogans in advertising history.

The Takeaway: Sometimes simply conveying how your product works is enough for consumers, showing can be more effective than telling!

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3.) Marlboro: Marlboro Man 

Marlboro Weekend Man ad

Image source: https://valcort.com/the-top-15-iconic-marketing-campaigns-in-history/

Introduced in 1955, the Marlboro Man campaign was likely the most powerful—and most controversial—brand image of the 20th century. While the ethics of tobacco advertising cause a fair amount of concern both legally and morally, there is no denying the power of this advertisement. In the 1950s, cigarettes were a staple in American society but Philip Morris Cos.’ brand needed to get a bit more creative if they wanted to appeal to men. At the time, Marlboro was positioned as more of a mild, women’s cigarette and so they needed a way to broaden the brand’s appeal. Thus, the Marlboro Man was born! This global marketing campaign skyrocketed the company almost immediately.

The Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to take creative risks in redefining your brand image, there may be a more expansive market that you’re missing out on!


4.) Absolut Vodka:  The Absolut Bottle

Absolute Vodka ad

Image source: https://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/the-best-of-the-great-absolut-ads

The 80s was a golden era for the advertising industry as large ad agencies were growing and converging. TBWA (now TBWA\CHIAT\DAY), an agency out of New York, created one of the longest-running campaigns in history for Absolut Vodka. Each print ad was revolved around the shape of the bottle, making a simple bottle look extraordinary. The first ad in the series featured their signature bottle with a halo above and the simple tagline, “Absolut Perfection” and became an instant hit! A series of 1,500 tv and print ads would follow, growing the company’s sales from 10,000 cases in 1980 to 4.5 million in 2000.

Check out the website AbsolutAd.com to see a full rundown of the ads!

The Takeaway: No matter how boring your product looks, don’t be afraid to tell your story in a different and interesting way! I mean, Absolut created over 1,500 (very successful) similar ads just from a bottle.


5.) Dos Equis: Most Interesting Man in the World

Dos Equis ad

Image source: https://valcort.com/the-top-15-iconic-marketing-campaigns-in-history/

In 2006, Dos Equis debuted one of best marketing makeovers in history that skyrocketed their exposure at a time where imported beer sales were dipping. At the time, other beer companies were directing their ads toward young, “hip” people, so Dos Equis decided to take a different approach. They brought in a slick worldly gentleman as a figure to aspire to and the advertisements sported witty one-liners that were extremely catchy.

The Lesson: The brilliant hyperbole showcased by this campaign left a lasting impact on viewers and as a result, the brand remained top of mind when viewers were buying beer. And even though in recent years Dos Equis replaced The Most Interesting Man with a new actor, he will be forever immortalized in meme culture.


6.) Miller Lite: Great Taste, Less Filling 

Miller Lite campaign

Image source: https://valcort.com/the-top-15-iconic-marketing-campaigns-in-history/

Miller Lite’s “Great Taste, Less Filling” campaign was Introduced in 1974 and is one of the longest-running campaigns of all time. Before the release of Miller’s light beer, there was a stigma attached to these lower-calorie beverages. “Real men” didn’t drink light beer, but that was all about to change!

Miller took the debate head-on, featuring “manly” models drinking their light beer and declaring it great tasting. Easy enough right? Right! Miller Lite went on to dominate the market that they essentially created.

The Takeaway: For the decades following this campaign, Miller Lite had a monopoly on the light beer market. What can marketers learn from them? Be different! Don’t let people tell you there isn’t room for a product, create your own category and become the leader.

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