The Art of the 48 sheet poster

Addendum bit:

The original post is below, but here is the proof I’ve been searching for. The offending VW ad. This is a DPS version rather than the 48 sheet I was banging on about. The only difference between the two is the addition of some body copy.

Cross of Iron? Most definitely not.
Creative Court Martial? Get the blindfolds out.

What were they thinking? Obviously not a lot.

Original post:

I’ve been searching Google for a pic I wanted to show you of an ad I abhor. But I haven’t come up trumps.

Then I thought, it doesn’t really matter if I don’t have a copy of it as it is so mind-numbingly dull, I could describe it to you.

The only problem I’ve been wrestling with is that it was done by one of the greatest ad agencies in the world for one of the greatest brands in the world.

Agency: DDB
Client: Volkswagen
Brand: New Golf Cabriolet

Now let’s start by saying: I love DDB.
I also love Volkswagen.

And I count myself extremely fortunate to have worked on the latter while I was at the former.

The reason this execution has got me so vexed is that I think both brands deserve better.

VW = Great advertising.
DDB = The pioneers of modern day advertising.

In fact, DDB pioneered the industry on brands like Volkswagen in the 60s.

So, what is this blot on the landscape that has offended me so?

Imagine an oblong. (Or rectangle, if you’re so inclined.)
Imagine said oblong in a landscape format.
Imagine this oblong is outside.
Beside a road.
It is made up of 48 sheets of paper. (Actually, it isn’t, it’s 12 what with better printing technology and all that, but the name has just stuck.)
On these 48 (12) pieces of paper is a photograph of a red Golf Cabriolet in front of a nondescript piece of modern architecture.
It’s the sort of picture you might find in a brochure for a new Golf Cabriolet.
It has some words written on it.
We call them: a headline.

Headline: The New Golf Cabriolet.

And that’s it.

Someone had better call in MI6 as I think Al Qaeda are holding the entire planning and creative dept of DDB hostage.

Who, at the agency and client, thought: Yes! You’ve cracked it. That’s just what we’ve been looking for – A picture of the car with the headline: The new Golf Cabriolet.

This execution beggars belief.

Where’s the dialogue?
Where’s the insight?
Where’s the smile in the mind?
Where’s the unique VW TOV?
Where’s the originality we come to expect from VW?

This ad is banal in the extreme and I would love to know how, and why, it ever made it up onto a 48 sheet poster.

Volkswagen deserve better.
And I know DDB can do better.

Here’s one I did a few years back while I was at Chemistry in Dublin. Same brief, different client.

To me, the poster is the Holy Grail of advertising. There is nowhere to hide.

Your thought has to be pure and simple. And above all, it has to be engaging.

Here are a few more examples I’ve done over the years.

There is one other thing that bothers me though. And that is this post is just completely negative.

And I don’t like that.

It’s bad for my karma.

So, in the interest of ending on a more positive note, I thought I’d show you some examples of a master in the art of making posters.

And I’m not talking about Messrs Hegarty, Abbott or Dye.


Filed under Advertising, Art, Brand, Comedy, Cross of Iron, Design, Ideas, Inspiration, Photography, Strategy, Writing

9 responses to “The Art of the 48 sheet poster

  1. Haven’t seen the ad, Dave. But, if I had, I think I would’ve convinced myself that I’d missed something. That there was a glorious joke I just wasn’t getting. Or that the ad contained a lateral thought I was too dense to spot. (An awfully plausible scenario, mind.) I would never have assumed there was nothing there at all. Even if I’d stared at it all day. Which, I suppose, is a kind of tribute to the great ads that have run in the past.

  2. I completely agree with you, Chris. And I did the same. I still can’t 100% believe it and am expecting a comment from someone telling me what a moron I am to have missed what is the defining moment of the next generation of poster advertising. But like you say, it’s testimony to all the other great creative that’s gone before. If had been for another brand I wouldn’t have bothered me arse writing about it.

  3. alex lyons

    The Head of Toyota is tied up in the boot ?

  4. Nicola

    You’re so right – but it takes someone like you to explain it to someone like me! Advertising is a mystery to me (love the bandaged thumbs, by the way!)

  5. So: a moody sky appears, in a surreal way, on vertical blinds. With blazing sunshine shining through the gaps.

    If you pulled a giant, unseen cord, the blinds would open and we’d see a gloriously sunny sky.

    The implication being, I think, that weather toggles swiftly between sunny and non-sunny. (Or, less swiftly, between night and day.)

    In the same way, you can go effortlessly from roof-up to roof-down in the Golf Cabriolet in a matter of seconds.

    Gasp. Do I win £5? Better make that £20.

  6. Well done you, for spotting the idea. And you were spot on with your first comment! You’re just much cleverer than me.

    Though, I still don’t think it’s very good, as blinds are designed to block out, or let in, light. Sun roofs aren’t for blocking out light – that would be tinted windows. Sun roofs are for the wind in your hair. You don’t open the blinds to get that, you open the window.

    Maybe a ring-pull on the sky would be a more immediate analogy.

    However… I’m not too conceited to admit that the whole premise of the post was that DDB and VW were guilty of producing an ad bereft of a concept. This is obviously not the case, as there is an idea in there, albeit and obtuse one.

  7. Craig

    Crikey, it took Chris to explain it before I could see it. Only when you look close, can you see the vertical blind. Not something I’d manage when zipping past at 70 in my Peugeot … (Purchased, entirely on the back of a great ad I’d seen). And, because I love to have the wind passing over my bald head.

    Great post!

  8. I hope the car can travel faster than the ad communicates. Otherwise, they needn’t have bothered with wheels. They could’ve just stuck an anvil in each corner.

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