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What Everybody Ought to Know about Auto Advertising in the 1940’s

In the 1930’s, advertising was restrained, but the upper end of the market saw the premier of lifestyle advertising. Studebaker’s advertising reflected what was occurring across the industry in the prewar 1940’s. We see a continuation of black and white photos with sidebars. The use of color is restrained.

1940 Studebaker Champion ad
1940 Studebaker Champion ad
Copyright © 1940 Studebaker Champion Corp

Studebaker’s April 1940 National Geographic ad promoted, “This spring Rediscover America in a Studebaker.” The sidebar read, “Overseas travel is out of the question this spring of 1940 of course. So why not decide to see your own America at its loveliest? Enjoy the fascinating spectacle of Nature awakening from her winter slumber. Get started now before the highways are thronged.” The photograph showed a Studebaker Commander Cruising Sedan at Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon.

Studebaker’s October 1941 National Geographic ad portrayed its building of war material. It uses two illustrations: one of the B-17 flying fortress and the other of the US6 2 1/2-ton, 6×6 truck. The main photograph that takes up about half a page is of a President Eight sedan arriving at a military ball. The copy read, “And thanks to the resourcefulness and research of Studebaker’s engineering and production staffs, materials critical to national defense have been released for that purpose — without any impairment of Studebaker’s traditional standards of quality.”

1943 Studebaker Cyclone Engines ad
1943 Studebaker Cyclone Engines ad
Copyright © 1943 Studebaker Champion Corp

Studebaker’s wartime advertisements are typical of the era in promoting its production of various items. In its April 1943 National Geographic ad, Studebaker mentions that it’s America’s oldest manufacturer of highway transportation. The last copy line read, “Today, as for generations past, Studebaker craftsmen make their watchword — ‘give more than you promise.’ Every Studebaker employee is justly proud of the achievements of his organization in the arming of our Nation and its Allies.” An August 1943 ad heralds, “Studebaker’s big military trucks stand out in all the major war zones.”

Postwar automobile advertising broke out of the doldrums caused by wartime production restraints. The time was a seller’s market where manufacturers sold every car and truck they could make.

1947 Studebaker Champion ad
1947 Studebaker Champion ad
Copyright © 1947 Studebaker Champion Corp

Studebaker’s 1947 advertisements used color photographs to announce, “Studebaker — First by far with a postwar car.” One ad showed a 4-door Champion Regal De Luxe sedan in a southwestern town setting with a group looking at the new offering. Some of the copy promoted, “So many heads turn to look, your first trips around town, you know for certain you were smart to wait and get this Studebaker’s real postwar styling.” An additional twist on lifestyle advertising is the smaller photo of a father and son Studebaker work team with copy that talked about their pride of craftsmanship.

1948 Studebaker Commander ad
1948 Studebaker Commander ad
Copyright © 1948 Studebaker Champion Corp

Studebaker’s 1948 Esquire ad extended the postwar lifestyle further. A rich color photo shows a couple proudly posed in the grass in front of their Commander Regal De Luxe convertible. The tagline read, “Dream car for a heavenly honeymoon!” The copy elaborates, “This honeymoon actually is a threesome, believe it or not. Look close and you see a welcome ‘third’ on the trip. It’s that thrill-packed new Studebaker convertible.”

1949 Crosley ad
1949 Crosley ad
Copyright © 1949 Crosley Corp

Crosley advertised its restyled models in 1949. A January 1949 tagline read, “Crosley — Announces Big New Models! — Hundreds of Improvements.” Black and white drawings of the DeLuxe Sedan and Station Wagon are used. Small type mentions, “speed line styling.” Bold type delineates engine specifications like improved compression ratio and greater economy, and closed with, “So drive a Crosley — the new style leader that saves you money by the mile!”

Auto advertising of this time reflected what is going across the industry in wartime 1940’s and then demonstrates the optimism of the post-war era.

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