When looking at the advertising of automobiles in the first part of the twentieth century, one realizes that the medium quickly evolved to featuring gift buying. One early example from my collection is the wedding gift theme of a 1905 Pope-Waverley ad in Life Magazine. It suggested, “It’s quite the thing nowadays to present the bride with a Pope-Waverley Electric. No gift imaginable can make as lasting an impression or give the recipient more genuine pleasure and convenience. These superb carriages are ‘always ready,’ clean, noiseless, and simple to operate.” How about an electric car for a wedding present?
Studebaker’s December 7, 1929, Literary Digest ad is probably one of the highmarks for the decade. Three color illustrations told the story, “Give her the keys to happiness.” The main illustration is of a father and daughter looking fondly at their gift of keys to a Studebaker Eight to the mother. “Each year this gracious Christmas custom grows in favor…the presentation of the Keys to Happiness to one well beloved. An attractive gift case holds the shining keys for one of Studebaker’s smart new motor cars — an Eight by the Builder of Champions! One should remember that this ad was conceived before the October 1929 stock market crash which had cataclysmic effects for advertising. You can’t put a car under the Christmas tree, what about gift wrapping the keys?
In the mid 1930’s, Studebaker produced The Wheel magazines for the auto show seasons. On the cover of the 1932 edition, we see a chic woman wearing furs showing a President convertible roadster to an older woman seated in a Studebaker electric. Inside the magazine there are eight pages of color illustrations interspersed with 12 pages of copy and black and white photographs of the “Triumphant New Studebakers.” Auto shows are about future auto dreams, aren’t they?
These types of materials are part of the sales process in creating attention, interest, and desire in the prospective customer’s mind. Auto advertising over the years was a good barometer of the health of the economy and marketplace.
I love sharing these vignettes about early auto advertising from my collection. They demonstrate that the only thing new in advertising is the delivery medium. The message from earlier times holds true today.
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