Back to the Classics: PKL: The Art of the Campaign

Back-to-the-Classics-Masthead-MCarpentermark-carpenter-2014-150x150Legendary ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach’s wild stepchild was Papert Koenig Lois (PKL). Founded in 1960 by two of DDB’s most talented creatives — cool, sardonic copywriter Julian Koenig and explosively profane art director George Lois — PKL took Bill Bernbach’s principles and literally ran with them.

What this new agency did best was to develop the art of the “campaign.” PKL had a knack for creating ideas with big shoulders — concepts that were so strong and vivid that they could be executed indefinitely. In a business where impatient clients demanded (and still demand) constant change, Papert Koenig Lois delivered campaigns that ran for years virtually unaltered.

My favorite was PKL’s work for Wolfschmidt vodka. In this classic campaign, an amorous bottle of Wolfschmidt tries to seduce fruits and vegetables used to make various drinks.
Wolfschmidt Ad

Wolfschmidt Vodka Ad






The campaign began with a tomato and an orange, but the idea was so clever and adaptable, it continued with pickles, cloves of garlic, olives, etc. In a crowded vodka market, sales of Wolfschimdt exploded in less than six months.

During the course of its life, PKL reproduced this miracle for client after client. But it took a toll on the agency’s staff. The pressure to generate spectacular campaigns was intense. Fistfights among employees were a weekly occurrence (with one copywriter suing the company for “having to work in an atmosphere of physical violence.”)

All of this was spurred on by George Lois’ personal credo, “If you don’t burn out at the end of each day, you’re a bum.”

Probably not words to live by.

Column written by Mark Carpenter, AAF Omaha Board Member & Co-Chair Nebraska ADDYs Committee.


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