(the detailed version)
Automobiles have always been a cultural icon, the essence of modernity and a work of art. Automobile advertising techniques had to be particularly persuasive due to the financial commitments incurred by the potential customer.
The first twenty years of the 20th century saw a shift in the aesthetics and techniques of advertising. Automobile were luxury items that were changing from a curious invention played with by the wealthy, to an aesthetic passenger vehicle. Advertising tended to be reassuring, emphasising technical merits and reliability, presenting a simple side-on illustration or photography of the car with columns of fine print listing mechanical features. Henry Ford changed the face of automobile industry and made cars more affordable and available. He believed that the future lay in making affordable motorcars for masses. Ten years after the Ford Motor Company was creating, it was making half the cars in America.
In 1915, the Cadillac's revolutionary advertisement "The Penalty of Leadership" (Figure 1.1) marked a change in advertisement style and attitude. It was a huge success that helped restore its reputation.
Vehicle style and appearance had later on developed into the craze for 'streamlining' were cars started to look longer, lower and rounder in advertising illustrations while manufacturers were introducing new and original model names every year. Surveys taken during the 1930's revealed that car consumers were easily seduced by the 'look' of a car and tended not to respond rationally when it came to purchasing it. The car was quickly becoming a statement of status and taste.
Advertisement was also targeting women, emphasising on the style and image of the car, rather than any economic or technologic advantage, thus also demonstrating the simplicity and safety of the product (Figure 1.2).
After the Second World War, companies were keen to give the impression of looking to the future and promising a new beginning. By the end of the decade, the sales of new cars reached an all-time record of just under five million a year. In advertisements, cars depicted driving on newly built bridges, dams and motorways. In 1956, car manufacturers were putting their efforts into the design production of smaller and more economical cars. The Volkswagen Beetle made a hit when it became the top-selling foreign car in the U.S due to the revolutionary advertising campaign created by Bill Bernbach. Many consider this campaign to have ushered in the era of modern advertising, a 'creative revolution' by using techniques that challenged, surprised and engaged the viewer. "Think Small" (Figure 1.3) showed honesty and self-effacing advertising that addressed the viewer with respect and intelligence.
Surprisingly, car producers in Britain did not take advantage of the new opportunities of television advertising, as they feared that the rising costs and associated risks of committing to expensive and untested methods. However this had finally changed in the 1970s when Datsun started a major television advertising campaign. In addition, more sophisticated photographic techniques and colour photography were being used more commonly in advertisements. Automobile advertisement led its way towards safety, efficiency, cleaner emissions and a general reduction in car size due the huge increase in traffic, rise in oil prices and general awareness of environmental issues. Volvo and Rover emphasised safety in their advertising campaigns (Figure 1.4); one's that have been developed imaginatively and very successfully over the years.