11 Timeless Lessons from the Creative Revolutionary

Take it from one the most important and influential figures in the history of advertising, Bill Bernbach.

William “Bill” Bernbach was a creative leader who revolutionized the way that advertising was approached. Bernbach was an aesthete, a creative craftsman, who valued innovation and intuition over science and rules. His views and principles still resonate in the world of advertising and are as relevant today as back in the “golden era” of marketing.

By incorporating creativity, simplicity and humour into his work, Bernbach was able to create some of the most successful campaigns in the history of advertising.

Dive into these famous mantras – and take notes.

Bill Bernbach

1. Be provocative
“But be sure your provocativeness stems from your product. You are NOT right if in your ad you stand a man on his head JUST to get attention. You ARE right if you have him on his head to show how your product keeps things from falling out of his pockets.”

2. Persuade.
“An important idea not communicated persuasively is like having no idea at all.”

3. Tell the truth.
“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.”

4. Be different.
“In advertising, not to be different is virtually suicidal.”


5. Break rules.
“Rules are what the artist breaks; the memorable never emerged from a formula.”

6. Keep it simple.
“Our job is to sell our clients’ merchandise … not ourselves. Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product. Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message.”

7. Develop art and copy as a unit.
Art and copy should be considered as a unit, not two separated entities. “Art and copy should sit in the same room.”

8. Don’t get too caught up in looks.
“Just because your ad looks good is no insurance that it will get looked at. How many people do you know who are impeccably groomed … but dull?”

9. Don’t rely on numbers.
“We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mould it. We are so busy listening to statistics we forget we can create them.”

10. Believe in the creative.
“[Creativity is] the most practical thing a businessman can employ.”

11. Don’t make a gimmick for the sake of the gimmick.
“You can get attention and really make people resent you if you do it with an unrelated gimmick. They won’t like you for that.”


Sources: Branding Strategy Insider, Hubspot, Craftsmen of Creativity and Advertising Hall of Fame.