Volkswagen — Simplicity in Motion

The Company
4 July 2019

Since before colour print, Volkswagen made a name for itself as a manufacturer of great cars and even greater ads. Volkswagen’s appeal to the masses stems not just from its marvel German engineering, but from its self-aware advertising campaigns.

Volkswagen excels in both German automotive engineering and the ability to not take themselves too seriously. Toeing the line between dry wit and self-deprecating humour can be a delicate task, but here’s how Volkswagen pulled it off. 

Simplicity in motion 

Ask any man from older generations if they remember a Volkswagen ad. Odds are, the answer is yes. The simplicity in its advertising campaigns and rapier wit of its taglines were enough to catch the eye and keep the attention of their audiences. Volkswagen’s early print advertisements all featured similar themes — a blank background, a VW Beetle, and a clever tagline.


Volkswagen’s minimalistic campaigns made their legendary debut in the 1950s and ‘60s. Their reliance on clever ad copy and clean images allowed their engagement to focus entirely on their brand and the products it was selling — namely the now-iconic VW Beetle. From the iconic ‘Lemon’ print piece to their modern-day colour print and TV ads, Volkswagen is a prime example of what clever but simplistic advertising can do with the right content and the right execution. 

A willingness to adapt

Not many brands succeed at making the transition from print to digital advertising. At least, not in the way Volkswagen did in its early days of television ads. Its wry humour and subtle brand messaging translated beautifully across platforms, drawing in the attention of a new audience — television watchers. The growth of TV ads allowed Volkswagen the freedom to explore the abilities of its advertising and marketing campaigns in moving visual form, giving way to iconic ads like the 1964 ‘Snow Plow’ all the way into the 2012 Super Bowl spot ‘The Force’. 

A good brand wields a versatility that allows it to adapt to any platform of advertising. Nothing is more vital in today’s age than this versatility, especially with brands seeking to broaden their reach across social media platforms.

This 1998 ad called ‘Lamp Post’ had very little dialogue involved. However, clever directing delivered just enough brand messaging to draw the attention of audiences in the UK.

An enduring brand style 

While its methods of delivery and platforms have changed, Volkswagen’s sense of humour — like its German engineering — has remained consistent through the years. Granted, they might have fumbled here and there in the past. The brand’s advantage is that Volkswagen rarely takes long to find its footing. Loyal customers of the brand have built an expectation with the way the brand handles its advertising campaigns, and Volkswagen never fails to deliver.  

The secret to Volkswagen’s success in its campaigns can be boiled down to staying relevant. They take into account current trends and topics while dipping into popular culture to keep their campaigns relevant and relatable. Their topics change, yet their style remains.  

That’s why Volkswagen remains Das Auto.

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