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William Bernbach
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Entrepreneur
    (August 13, 1911-October 2, 1982)
    Born in Bronx, New York
    Advertising creative director
    Co-founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB, 1949)
    Notable ad campaigns include 'Think Small' for Volkswagen, 'We try harder' for Avis, 'It's so simple' for Polaroid and 'You don't have to be Jewish...' for Levy's Rye Bread
    He liked to hint that he came from a deprived background (A favorite joke was, 'I have no middle name because my parents couldn't afford one.'), but his family was actually upper middle class, with his father working as a clothes designer.
    He got his first job (in a distillery mail room) through family connections.
    He said, 'You can't do this job if you're not arrogant.'
    When DDB landed the account for Lyndon B. Johnson's re-election campaign, he only allowed registered Democrats to work on the ads, saying he wanted 'true believers.'
    With the notorious 'Daisy' spot (in which the image of a young girl counting the petals she plucks off a flower morphs into a nuclear countdown and mushroom cloud), his agency launched the era of negative TV ads in presidential campaigns.
    He hated hard-sell ads.
    He liked to use subtle, but irreverent, humor.
    He inaugurated the now-standard practice of combining copywriters and art directors into two-person teams.
    He said, 'I had the advantage of not knowing too much about advertising, and therefore I could be fresher and more original about it. As soon as you become a slave to the rules, you’re doing what everybody else does; when you do what everybody else does, you don’t stand out.'
    Harper's magazine noted that he 'probably had a greater impact on American culture than any of the distinguished writers and artists who have appeared in the pages of Harper's during the past 133 years.'
    In Advertising Age's 'Century of Advertising' issue, the magazine named him the most influential person of the 20th century in advertising and the 'Think Small' Volkswagen ads the top ad campaign of the century.

Credit: C. Fishel


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