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Excerpted fromThinking Small by Andrea Hiott Copyright © 2012 byAndrea Hiott. Reprinted with permission from Ballantine Books, a division of Random Houseof Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced orreprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. When the idea ofintroducing the Beetle to America was first toyed with in the late 1950s, it representedthe antithesis of everything major American car agencies deemed important. Its U.S. saleswere low, the model was un-American and foreign at a time when foreign companies justweren't a market that big American advertisers invested in -- and the anger that WWII hadfostered still simmered. After all, this was the car that The New York Times hadreferred to as the "Baby Hitler" in 1938. And it was ugly. When people were beinggenerous, they referred to the car as "a motorized tortoise" or a "pregnant roller skate."But the Volkswagen car, a car Americans would later nickname the "The Beetle," was aboutto experience its U.S. rebirth.Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip ofthe Beetle arrives in stores onTuesday. Buy it here.William Bernbach did not look like arevolutionary. His sober meticulous suits and conservative ties did not catch the eye ordistinguish him from any of the other advertising men walking New York City's bustlingstreets in the 1950s. Thin and compact, with short dark hair neatly combed to one side,Bill had a small physique that was almost childlike. True, he was the creative head ofhis own advertising agency-Doyle Dane Bernbach, soon to be familiarly known as DDB-but hedidn't come off as a typical executive of the time: his evenings were rarely full ofexpensive dinner parties or multiple martinis, he wasn't embroiled in a string of heated affairs, he didn't own a pristine country home, or live in a fancy penthouse uptown.Instead, for much of his life, Bill lived in an anonymous neighborhood in the Bay Ridgearea of Brooklyn, he took the subway into work each day, and he left on time every nightto go home and have dinner with his kids and his wife.Bill may not have looked like the kind of man who could catch the world's attention, but he was, and by the late 1950s, people were beginning to notice him. Unlikethe rest of the cookie-cutter ad agencies on Madison Avenue, DDB had a fresh sense ofpurpose filling its rooms, drawing people in. Walking into their offices in those days,through the haze of cigarette smoke, past the ringing phones and the interactive rush of talented young men and women, one always found Bill Bernbach at the center of the buzz,his Brooklyn-tinged voice-simultaneously gentle and disarming-leaking out of his officeand into the halls, his door always open. There was something alluring about his clear,blue-eyed gaze, and as the years passed, Bill rose to be known as the creative center of his agency, the person all the art directors and copywriters wanted to speak to abouttheir work, the man who could get that work into print, or make it disappear without atrace. Bill was confident, and his confidence became DDB's backbone. It's what made somany want to be near him-his approval was a good luck charm of sorts-but it was also what made people hide from him at times, unsure or unready to face his clear and veraciouseye. There were no rules with Bill; only vigilance.The crew at DDB was a motley and roughish bunch, in no way typical of most advertising agencies in New York. In certain younger circles, DDB was considered one ofthe only ad agencies where a person could work on something different, somethingexciting, something "meaningful," if you dared to use that term. Whereas other successfulagencies at the time were full of serious-faced men in expensive suits, DDB was more likean experimental powwow. Art and writing were respected as crafts within themselvesrather than as the means to a financial end. DDB employees worked in teams; theycommunicated and sparred. Those who witnessed this process called it creative, in a waythat the advertising world had never really seen before.DDB was different, and different was exciting. But that didn't mean the agencywas going to leave its mark. In the larger scheme of things, DDB was more likely to bebeaten by the establishment than it was to change it. After all, in 1959, the majority ofAmericans had never encountered a DDB ad. When it came to the heavyweights of economicsand industries, DDB was small: They didn't have any of the accounts that mattered-no car company from Detroit, no major tobacco brand, no national retail chain.And there was something else, too. In business terms, DDB wasoften dismissed as a quirky place that did "ethnic" advertising, a crude way of sayingthat most people considered DDB a Jewish company that did "unabashedly, recognizablyJewish" ads. Most of their clients were Jewish. Bill Bernbach was Jewish. And many on thestaff were Jewish as well. Thus DDB's success was a local success: advertisements for ElAl airlines or Ohrbach's department store caught the eye but had a limited scope,catering strictly to Manhattan and its boroughs. Bernbach's shop was no more a threat tothe established giants than were the strange beatniks and folk singers who had startedcongregating downtown.Advertising was incrediblylucrative in those days though, and the big agencies were prospering. Their ads showedbeautiful and successful people enjoying a product, and upon seeing such stimulation,customers were supposed to be stimulated too. This underlying equation of "consumption equals happiness" had proven appeal: America's culture of materialism was thriving, fedon eye-popping advertisements for big houses, big cars, big smiles, and big words. It wasthe decade of dazzle, and yet as that decade entered its final year, some began to wonderif any of it had been real. The country's foundations no longer seemed so solid. A recession eventually set in, and it wasn't solely economic. The spirit of the countrybegan to change; there was a sense of disquiet. As poet Allen Ginsberg wrote in theVillage Voice in 1959: "No one in America knows what will happen. No one is in realcontrol." The country was begging for a shift in perspective, and that would mean takingrisks and thinking strange.And what does this have to do with The Beetle?That's next... Continue Reading ]More...[/url]