One of advertising’s original ‘Mad Men’, Bronx-born William “Bill” Bernbach was an American advertising creative director and founder of the international advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach.

After graduating from New York University, Bernbach had his first experience of marketing at a distiller, where he landed a job in the advertising department. After serving in the Second World War and working at a couple of agencies, he struck out on his own and started DDB in 1949 with a few peers.

From the start, Bernbach played an integral role in the writing of advertising and helped billings increase from $1m to more than $40m by the time he retired.

Key achievements

  1. Bernbach was among the first to pair a copywriter with an art director, creating two-man teams – a model that quickly became the industry norm.
  2. His “Think Small” campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle made such an impression at the time that Advertising Age magazine named it the best campaign ever produced.
  3. His creativity-first approach was so successful that it was later embraced by pioneering companies such as Saatchi & Saatchi.

Lessons for your store

  1. Market your business creatively – Bernbach once said that “advertising is fundamentally persuasion, and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art”.
  2. Don’t get side-tracked from your core duties – Bernbach deliberately distanced himself from the administrative and promotional aspects of his business.
  3. Connect emotionally with your customers – Bernbach said this was key to selling, and used both humour and clarity to accomplish this.