top of page

Advertising 1950s Style

Reader Pet Erol Head has written in to share a few magical advertising moments with those of our subscribers who, like him, have a passion for the automobiles of yesteryear. Inspired by recent posts invoking the idyll of motoring 70 years or so ago, he has dug deep into his dusty drawers to find two advertisements from 1950 which in his opinion "capture the excitement, but more importantly the sheer joyful irresponsibility which these beasts generated and planted deep in the psyche of the times". [ has rephrased Mr Head's original submission better to convey his intended meaning. [Ed]]

EXHIBIT 1: General Motors 1950 Poster:

Reproduced from the pages June 1950's edition of Dorset Modern Motoring Magazine, this advertisement shows how the campaign to sell American cars in the notably conservative South-West approached the matter through a variety of appeals to friendly neighbourly rivalry ["Keeping up with the Threadbones"], sexual ambition and a post-war yearning to throw off economic and cultural stereotypes, the implied straightjacket of which kept society broadly monogamous, industrious, honest and charitably inclined towards those less fortunate than themselves. Breaking the mould was key to the manufacturer's strategy and "boy did it work". Within a decade of this advertisement [roughly how long it took to earn enough for a deposit on a fender] the men and women of Dorset were screwing around, drinking too much, taking a record number of days off work; defrauding their expense accounts and sharing STDs faster than a "fly on shit". [The Whisky-McKinsey Report Vol 12: Dorset]. This was perhaps the perfect example of social mores being led by a single advertisement. Never again would the power of American advertising be underestimated - it was a lesson any number of organisations, enterprises and institutions soon learned.

EXHIBIT 2: Buick Advertising Campaign 1956

Based on a narrower and more specific appeal - namely the basic human desire to remove a local nuisance whilst staying out of jail, this classic advertisement for the Buick B-58 [no relation to the bomber!!] is taken from the pages of Living With The Neighbours Magazine and highlights a common problem as well as an ingenious solution to it..

Statistics show that by 1958 those who had bought American cars (which had the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car, a strange device called a stick-shift on the steering column and high rear windows] were 10 times more likely to run over a child when in reverse than the owner of a Morris Minor of equivalent. Statistics further showed that female drivers were three times more likely than men to fall foul in this regard, largely because [a] they were home more often when kids were around and [b] they stopped to check when they heard a sickening thud. Realising that an opportunity lay herein - the makers of the Lunatic-Proof Buick B-58 emphasised its remarkable braking characteristics as a way of proving that the removal of the kid from any further interference in the owner's life was unavoidable and could, therefore, be achieved without penalty. Statistics show that, in this way, a remarkable "clean-up" campaign was mounted and that the number of nuisance children running around with both legs intact fell dramatically between 1958 and 1962. No Government Campaign before or since has produced such convincing and - to the driver - painless results.

Our thanks go to Mr Head for sharing these thought-provoking examples of advertising at its best.

13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page