William Bernbach was a creative leader who revolutionized the way that advertising was approached. Above all he valued innovation and intuition over science and rules. In an interview, he credited his creativity as being the secret of his success, saying, "I think I...had the advantage of not knowing too much about advertising, and therefore I could be fresher and more original about it. As soon as you become a slave to the rules, you’re doing what everybody else does; when you do what everybody else does, you don’t stand out."
Simplicity was another quality exhibited in Bernbach’s work. His copywriting philosophy revolved around the idea that persuasion was the purpose of advertising and that only a simple approach would "make crystal clear and memorable the message of the advertisement." By incorporating creativity, simplicity and humor into his advertisements, Bernbach was able to create some of the most successful campaigns in the history of advertising. Advertisements for Ohrbach’s, Levy’s bakery of Brooklyn, Volkswagen and Avis are among his most memorable pieces of work.
Bernbach strongly believed that advertising success hinged on the quality of the product. One of Bernbach’s most quoted lines is "[N]othing makes a bad product fail faster than a great advertising campaign." This guiding principle led DDB to select only products that could live up to their advertising.
From its founding in 1949, Bernbach played an integral role in the writing of advertising, distancing himself from the administrative and promotional aspects of the business. He served as the creative engine behind Doyle, Dane, Bernbach, helping his company increase its billings from approximately $1 million to more than $40 million by the time he retired. DDB quickly grew to become the 11th largest advertising agency in America by 1976, when Bernbach stepped aside as chief executive officer.
Throughout his career, William Bernbach won many awards and honors for his work within the advertising industry. These include induction into the Copywriters Hall of Fame in 1964, The Man of the Year of Advertising Award in 1964 and 1965, and The Pulse Inc., Man of the Year Award in 1966. He was also named "Top Advertising Agency Executive" in 1969 and received the American Academy of Achievement Award in 1976.
In addition to receiving copious awards, Bernbach also designed the Advertising Hall of Fame "Golden Ladder" trophy.