Among the features that VW’s American ad agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach, used to promote the Beetle was the fact that the car was exceptionally well sealed. One ad showed them blowing out a candle using a hole in the windshield and a slamming door as an air gun. Famously, VW bragged that the Beetle would float in both print ads and in this 1972 commercial, How Long Does A Beetle Float? Actor Lew Wood’s account of the ad shoot is below the break. More infamously, the National Lampoon, then a very young publication, had to recall a number of issues and issue an apology because they parodied VW in a satire that also made fun of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s actions in regard to the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne. The mistake they made was including an actual VW logo in the ad (as well as a tasteless joke about Kopechne) which duplicated the look of VW advertising created DDB. VW complained, the Lampoon pulled the “ad”, and issued the following retraction: “Even if Ted Kennedy had driven a Volkswagen he wouldn’t be president today.“
I am the guy tha D-D-B chose to be the spokesman for that famous “Floating VW” TV commercial in June , 1972.
My name is Lew Wood, and I was doing commercials and V/O’s in NYC when I was booked for the job. We shot it at a launching ramp in Stamford, CT on LI Sound. The production crew was Horn-Greiner. Director Norm Greiner. D-D-B’s creative director was Tom Yobaggy. And even Mr. Bernbach was on the location!
They hired a stuntman to drive the VW into the water. However, Norm Greiner suddenly woke up to the fact that I had to deliver that last line “Now, what other car gives you this kind of quality at this kind of price?” from the car! I said, “Norm, I’m a sailor, I’m at home on the water. I’ll drive it in!”
I splashed it three times. (We used three identical Beetles, all burnt orange in color. Splashed two of them alternately, the third never got wet and was used for “beauty shots.” Swimmers went in to tow them back to shore after each take.
We all thought our commercial would win the “Clio” that year, but the “Snowplow” commercial took the prize.
However, the residuals were nice!
After many years of searching for a 1972 Super Beetle in burnt orange with NO RUST, I finally found one a few years ago in Vista, CA, and snapped it up. I now proudly drive around town frequently and get admiring looks.
Now, you know “the rest of the story!”