DDB Celebrates a Century of Bill Bernbach

By Bob Marshall 

This year saw two centennials celebrated in the ad industry. June 23 marked what would have been the 100th birthday of David Ogilvy, with the agency that he co-founded, Ogilvy and Mather, honoring the Mad Man with an online video contest and a lavish ceremony at the Cannes Lions Festival.

And now, in case you slept on it, DDB Worldwide remembered Bill Bernbach’ s 100th over the weekend. The agency co-founder/co-namesake was notable for taking a very hands-on approach to DDB as its CEO, with notable campaigns including Volkswagen’s “Think Small” series of print ads (1963’s “Snow Plow” spot for the automaker is above) and Life Cereal’s “Mikey” TV spots. In contrast to Ogilvy’s fancy party, DDB chose to instead just look at examples of Bernbach’s most celebrated work (pictured below). Oh, and Don Draper raised a glass to Bernbach’s memory as well.

In a statement regarding the centennial celebration, DDB U.K. chief client officer Nick Fox says, “When he co-founded DDB, Bernbach started a legacy – an agency that had the gumption to do things differently, with an honest approach that cut to the quick. DDB Worldwide was founded on the power of creativity, the ability to see things in a way others didn’t. The agency took the notion that social stance was no longer important but intelligence – appealing to customers not by what they did or didn’t have, but by who they were as individuals.”

For those interested in learning more about advertising’s “golden age” where personalities like Ogilvy and Bernbach made a name for themselves, you can pick up the recently published Andrew Cracknell book The Real Mad Men. Until then, have the humility to admit that if you got a creative brief that said, “Sell Hitler’s car to America,” you would not hold a candle to Bernbach’s work.