Television commercials from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s had a certain charm that today’s commercials could never match even despite the slickness of their modern-day sheen. It is interesting to take a look back at these commercials for a look at the advertising styles of the day, as well as to get a glimpse into the demographics of the time. It is especially telling in the world of car advertisements, as old commercials help to indicate how manufacturers were attempting to position their cars in the marketplace.
The 1961 Oldsmobile advertisement for their Super 88, Dynamic 88, and Ninety-Eight V-8-driven cars featured Florence Henderson before her days in popular TV series The Brady Bunch. The commercial features her fronting a musical production in which a collection of singers and dancers praise the wonders of Oldsmobile’s fine luxury cars in song. The musical song and dance production style of television advertisement is a nice look into TV history, as this was a popular advertising motif in its time that is rarely seen today.
Old car ads would often indicate which gender was considered to be the car’s target audience. Nowadays, cars are not marketed in such a gender-specific manner, which also says something about the changes that have occurred in gender politics over the years. A good example can be seen in the 1966 Mustang ad in which the question was asked “should a single girl buy a 1966 Mustang?” Of course the answer in the commercial was a resounding yes. Interestingly, despite the female-centric advertising campaign, the Mustang became very popular among men and even helped usher in the quite masculine “muscle car” era.
It is ironic that Chevrolet chose O.J. Simpson as the spokesperson for their 1970 Chevy Nova advertisements, as generally companies choose the face of their brand based on the reputation of the individual. At the time, Simpson was not only one of the greatest and most well-known athletes in the country, but was considered a stand-up guy, one worthy of a respected American institution such as Chevy’s trust. Little did Chevy know the fate that would befall Simpson in coming years! Aside from the irony, the commercial featured a clever idea; favorably comparing the Nova to Simpson as a football player, meaning the Nova had more padding, and more “juice.”