VW ads

Throwback Thursday: Ads That Changed the Game

Advertising may be ever-changing, but parts of the ad game remain constants. Since the industry began, countless changes have been made to the way brands market their products, and behind most of these changes stood a risky idea; sometimes those risks paid off. Let’s take a look at three ads that revolutionized the industry.


Does she… or doesn’t she?”–Clairol 

In 1956, Clairol was faced with a dilemma. The brand needed to sell its “hair color bath,” which enabled users to achieve natural-looking color in the comfort of their own homes. However, social stigmas at the time prevented women from dyeing their own hair free of judgment. Clairol’s strategy? Convince the consumer that the coloring achieved from the product will be so natural that nobody will know for sure if it’s colored. Thus was born the slogan, “Does she…or doesn’t she?” Not surprisingly, this iconic tagline realized immense success for Clairol while simultaneously breaking through a widespread stigma.


“Think small.”–Volkswagen

Volkswagen released their “Think small” print ad in 1962, a time when the existing mobile fascination in America revolved around muscle cars. To stand out amid the competition, the brand took a simplistic approach. This strategy was radical, as it contradicted the established association of automobiles with extravagance. By placing the image of the small VW against an all-white background, viewers could only focus on two things: that image, and the text at the bottom of the ad explaining the benefits of having a smaller car. Instead of focusing on luxury (as the majority of ads did at the time), VW keyed in on the benefits of practicality. It worked.





Finally, we come to an essential “first” in advertising: the first television commercial ad. The commercial, a clip promoting watch and jewelry company Bulova was released shortly after the F.C.C. granted commercial licenses to U.S. television stations in 1941. Only several thousand TV sets had been installed at the time of its airing, so the ad only reached a few thousand viewers. It wasn’t such a loss, though; the entire spot cost Bulova a total of $9. Regardless of its success, Bulova set the stage for countless brands who would continue, to this day, to advertise on television.

Craving more thought-provoking ads? Check out this list.

Cover Photo Source: Bocman1973 /

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info] Leora is a Junior Executive at SJG. She is a native Chicagoan who is currently working toward obtaining a BA from Washington University in St. Louis. Outside the office, her favorite things include reading, live music and travel.[/author]