A Beetle owners’ and fans’ club will be inaugurated at Durbar Hall along with an exhibition of Volkswagen’s ad campaign prints

A repaint job at his office led Hisham Kabir to a Eureka moment. The advertising enthusiast and entrepreneur has put together an exhibition of the prints of Volkswagen’s ad campaigns marketing the Beetle in the United States from the late 50s to 1969.

“These ads have been on display in my office, Ideal Caterers, for sometime. I wanted people to see these ads, and recently when we had to paint the shop these prints had to be taken out. That is when I thought why not show people that such an ad campaign existed. It is informative. These will make people smile and if I can make some one happy then why not?” Hisham says. The show is a must watch for ad enthusiasts, he adds.

The ad campaign, by New York-based ad firm Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) is considered one of the best examples of successful print campaigns in the history of advertising. The campaign plays upon, what some might have considered, the iconic Beetle’s weaknesses and turns them into the car’s strengths. That the DDB campaign managed to sell the car with a distinct German identity in the US which hadn’t forgotten World War II speaks volumes about its efficacy. Even the extremely German sounding ‘Volkswagen’ was reduced to the concise, catchy and the not German sounding VW.

The Beetle aka the Bug later went on to become a symbol of the hippie generation; in fact Beetlemania is considered an important aspect in the study of the cultural history of the US.

The campaign got a big car-loving populace to ‘think small’ (one of the first in the ad campaign series) and consider buying the diminutive Bug. The series of ads accomplished a huge shift in perception. The campaign was striking in terms of its content – imagine selling a car by telling people to live below their means or calling it ugly or by saying that it is the slowest. Even in terms of how space and visuals were manipulated it was revolutionary and speaks more eloquently, and intelligently, than any broadcast ad today.

Hisham says he learnt about the campaign as an MBA student in Mumbai. He was so impressed by them that he has put them up in his office. He believes that studying these campaigns will educate budding copywriters and also those in the business about brand building.

There are around 40 prints that will be on show at the Durbar Hall. He has sourced the prints from the Net and old books, besides using some of his too.

There is something for the car aficionado too at the exhibition. Lovers of wheels can ogle at some Beetles notable among them are the vintage beauties specially brought for the show. The event will also see the inauguration of a VW Beetle owners’ and fans’ club. The exhibition at Durbar Hall concludes on September 7.

In love with a Beetle

Volkswagen or the Beetle was conceived by Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and asked Ferdinand Porsche to develop the car. The car was one of the first rear engine cars in the world. Volkswagen literally means people’s car and which is what Hitler wanted it to be.

Kerala has its share of Beetle lovers. And one of the best preserved Beetles in the country belongs to Kochi-based Dr. Binoy Basheer. It took Binoy two-and-a-half years to restore the 1969 model VW1300 Beetle.

One was expecting a rickety, dusty car but it turned out to be a classic, glossy beauty in perfect running condition. Binoy says he drives down to his hometown, Thiruvananthapuram in the car. A ride in the car is all you need by way of convincing. Getting the parts was a hitch, “Volkswagen could not help me. They had none of the parts.” An online search led him overseas and he found the spares in the US which friends and family procured for him. “There are no mechanics to do this. My mechanic came down from Thiruvananthapuram,” Binoy says.

The headlamps are original and he managed to get himself a 1960s service sticker from the UK. Since he wanted the exact colour of the original car, armed with the engine number he contacted the manufacturer in Germany. He found out that his red Beetle had in fact been Chincilla Grey, a shade not easily found. Binoy found it abroad and his car is Chincilla Grey.

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