Volkswagen’s “Think Small” Campaign

Volkswagen’s “Think Small” Ad

            The ad made it’s first appearance in Life Magazine as a black & white print with an angled, real photo of the car that appears to be small compared to the size of the field of white that it’s placed on, and has a border at the bottom containing the words “Think small,” accompanied by text underneath explaining the importance and specs of their small car.

Persuasive techniques used:

            This ad by Volkswagen uses pure persuasion, as many ads of the time did. Pure persuasion is “clear-cut cases of persuasion, on which most people would agree.” Similar to car advertisements of their day, and advertisement now, they make this ad with the sole purpose of getting people to buy their cars, especially the one featured in the ad itself which is a Volkswagen Beetle, which was the flagship model that proved to be a staple of the company in their early years.

            With Volkswagen just getting started out in their expansion to the United States, they chose to take the central route of persuasion for their ad. The color of the ad being black & white was more for financial reasons as they couldn’t afford to print it in color at the time, however, the break from the norm of colorful ads that was present in that day and age was another eye-catching distinction that lead to the success of the campaign.

This ad was groundbreaking and had a huge impact on how advertisements changed in the years following.

            In terms of the ethicality of this ad, I don’t see it as doing anything unethical. Being their first American advertisement, they simply make an attempt to introduce themselves as a growing brand, and provide some reasons to think about buying their product. They don’t try to dissuade readers from looking at other car brands. Their origins of being a company founded by Nazis is one thing that comes into question when talking about the brand, and it is even something that turns people off of the idea of buying their cars, but despite their origins, they don’t use this ad as a means of spreading the ideologies of their founders. They simply use it to put themselves out there as just a car brand that makes a reliable product.

Some more background on the ad:

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