Auto advertising in the 1950’s

In the 1950’s, intense competition from the Big Three pressured independents. Therefore, independents emphasized their points of differentiation like styling from others. Automotive advertising became more opulent and lifestyle oriented.

1950 Studebaker

The October 1949 ad in Holiday for the 1950 “bullet-nose” Studebaker proclaimed, “Presenting the ‘new look’ in cars.” “Success breeds success! The car that led in modern design now moves still more spectacularly out ahead!” Other specifications mention improvements like higher compression power and self-stabilizing coil springs. The color photo showed a couple motoring in their Commander Regal De Luxe Starlight coupe along the riverside with a cityscape in the background.

Raymond Loewy with 1953 Studebaker

Studebaker’s May 1953 ad in Country Gentleman continued the theme of the previous six years-that of styling innovation. The couple in a Commander Starliner hard-top coupe motors through a park-like setting in the color photo. The tagline shouted, “New and different! Exciting 1953 Studebaker!” Supporting copy commands, “See it and try it! America’s most talked about new car! Hard-top convertible shown above is less than five feet high! Only in a Studebaker do you get this long and low new styling — and it’s yours to enjoy at a down to earth price.” The ad stresses points of differentiation with long and low styling and pricing.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe

Following the lead of independent’s ads, Chevrolet’s 1956 ad in National Geographic touts “Nothing without wings climbs like a ’56 Chevrolet. Aim this new Chevrolet up a steep grade – and you’ll see why it’s the Pikes Peak record holder.” This was the second year for the new Chevrolet V8 engine. The copy further claims “In the merest fraction of a second you sense that big bore V8 lengthening out its stride. And up you go with a silken rush of power that makes a mountain seem as flat as a roadmap. The car that proved its fired-up performance, cat-sure cornering ability and nailed-down stability on the rugged, twisting Pikes Peak road. And all these qualities mean more driving safety and pleasure for you.” The color illustration showed a sporty driver hunkered down in his Bel Air Sport Sedan climbing the road to Pikes Peak.

These postwar advertisements reflect the seller’s market for automobiles. Performance would go on to trump opulence and lifestyle as the Big Three market leaders began to dominate the market.

For more information on our automotive heritage, follow this link.

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