Julian Koenig vs. George Lois on This American Life (episode 383 – Origin Story)

Jun 24

This week’s episode of This American Life had a very interesting story on Julian Koenig, (Herschon Garfield, Helmut Krone, DDB) the copywriter/father of Volkswagen’s “Think Small” and “Lemon” (among many other famous ads) and his dispute with George Lois (Art Director) over who came up with what.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Here’s the complete episode (including the prologue, and acts I,II,III, and IV):


For more info on this episode, visit This American Life.

Interestingly enough, in the AEF/Yahoo series “Giants of Advertising” Lois said: “I’ve lied, cheated, stole”:

Here’s Koenig telling the story:


  1. Elissa Dorfsman /

    Ms. Koenig. I searched and searched for some clue as to your name and how I could communicate with you after hearing your piece on your superbly talented father on NPR. I am Elissa Dorfsman, first born of Louis Dorfsman. My Dad died last October at 90 — but it was nonetheless sudden and a horrible blow to me and my mother particularly — and we held a memorial for him at Cooper Union on March 16, 2009. I sent out almost 1,000 invites. I have no doubt that your father was on the mailing list, but no idea as to whether the invite ever reached him or whether he ever made it to the memorial. My father would have HOWLED at your piece on NPR and also would have nodded his head sagely, knowing all too well that what you report is true. GL was a speaker at the memorial, of course, and one of my biggest fears was that the speech would turn into the George Lois Show. He was actually subdued for George, but getting there was a little bit of a tug of war as you might imagine. I would like to communicate with you. I don’t know whether I have actually met your father, but I certainly knew his name as I grew up. Let’s talk. You have my email. We should meet. And I would love to meet your father. Send my best — and from my mother as well. Thank you for an EXCELLENT portrayal. Elissa D.

  2. Dear Elissa,

    You recently posted a comment on my blog addressing Ms. Sarah Koenig. Unfortunately, I’m not related to Ms. Koenig so I’m afraid she won’t get the message you posted but I was able to find her contact info on google:



    I’m CCing her on this reply but you may want to contact her directly as well (sarah@thislife.org / 312-315-8598).

    I know your comment was not addressed to me personally but I thank you for posting it as it made me want to post a few links about your dad and his wonderful work, for the readers who are not aware of who he was:

    Lou Dorfsman, Design Chief at CBS, Dies at 90:

    Lou Dorfsman – The Art Directors Club – 1978 Hall of Fame:

    Louis Dorfsman – Archive of American Television Interview:


  3. I have to say that in the dispute between Koenig and Lois nobody mentions Helmut Krone’s role in the creation of the VW ads. Krone was the one who went on all the fact finding trips to the VW plant in Germany. He was the one who was friends with engineers as well of the president of VW, Nordof. Krone was the one who spoke german as his family was originally from Braunschweig near the VW plant – so Krone’s research was the basis to all the DDB ideas. He’s the one who came up with the “Lemon” ad and many of the motives of the campaign rollout. Koenig and Lois were his supporting cast.

  4. Dear Sarah Koenig

    My name is Dr. Lillian Glass (www.drlillianglass.com). Yesterday I heard the fantastic interview you did on NPR about your brilliant 88 year old father Julien Koenig, a genius and pioneer in the advertising world and how his partner George Lois tried to take credit for your father’s original work with regard to the creative advertising campaigns your father originated.

    I think what you have done for your father in presenting this information publically is the biggest gift you could have given to this great man. It should be very healing for him to know that the truth has now been exposed to the world.

    I want both you and your father to know that your father’s story touched me very deeply on a very personal level. After hearing the emotional pain in your father’s voice as he spoke of the dispicable act of someone trying to take credit for his work and representing themselves as the creator of your father’s branding, I became even more motivated in my own fight for justice in a similar situation with an author who has done what amounts to intellectual thievery on my own book, which she called by the same name- Toxic People.

    Like your father, I have worked hard all of my life. In 1995 I wrote a book called Toxic People and gave lectures on the topic throughout the world.

    Several years ago a Marsha Petrie Sue not only wrote a booked called Toxic People but she did word for word copying of my work and has put herself out there as the author of Toxic People, causing considerable confusion with my brand. Needless to say I am involved in a lawsuit against Marsha Petrie Sue for not only copyright infringement but for trademark violation.

    Even though I have a contingency lawyer, I have had to spend considerable sums on this case because the publisher is trying to out-spend me, forcing me to attend depositions in New York and totally prepare a complex case on a shoe string budget.

    I have had my doubts about going forward, but I always return to the conclusion: how can I look myself in the mirror if I don’t at least get a court to say whether this is or is not actionable copying?

    As I venture forth in my own pursuit of justice, it will be your father’s voice that will help propell forward. I will never forget the pain I heard in his voice as he discussed the egregious acts of George Lois.

    I will keep your voice in my mind as well as someone who exposed the injustice intellectual thievery. People who take credit for other’s work and do word for word copying of their materials must be exposed for the frauds they are.

    I am only sorry that your father did not pursue his grievance against Mr, Lois through the legal system in order to achive justice and closure. But the fact that you have exposed this case around the world should bring your father peace of mind as he has definately achieved justice in the court of public opinion.

    Thank you again for your brilliant expose and God Bless your father.
    Dr. Lillian Glass


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