Car Advertisements of the 1950s

The advertisements for automobiles in the 1950s were all about the car’s features.  In a modern age where car advertisements focus on selling an experience, the 50s ads seem long winded due to the fact they are nothing but an announcer describing the car.  The car was the selling point, not the experience.Here are some examples of car commercials from the 50s:

The 1950s loved the sheer idea of just being able to drive.  The end of World War II meant that the parts needed to build a car were no longer being rationed.  The new lines of cars being produced were met with consumers who either were finally shedding themselves of their old clunker or finally getting the opportunity to purchase their own car.  Post war America was having a new car boom.  

The advertising focused on what the car is capable of because that what the consumer was looking for.  They pursued the public by trying to attract their rational desires.  The suburbanization of America was the biggest driving force behind the car boom and the creation of the rat race, that commuting back and forth from work in the cities was the focus for advertisers.  Advertisers goal was to reach a broad range of individuals and they did by focusing on the family.  Almost every print ad in the first link provided focused either on a full family or a happy couple.  The only time the Chevrolet commercial did not focus on a car it showed a couple leaving a large suburban home and loading into their car.  The first thing the announcer boasts about is how great the car is to haul families around.  The whole focus is to match the idea of car ownership with the idea of the suburban family being the ultimate goal a consumer has.

Critical Thinking Questions

– Compare the 1956 commercial to one by Chevrolet today.  (Here is one if you can’t think of any)  What are the differences between the two in how they are trying to attract a consumer?

– In what ways is the car a symbol of mass consumption?

– All of the ads make a point of making note how easy the car is for women to drive.  Who are the advertisers trying to reach with this kind of message?


  1. As I viewed this presentation, I began to laugh to myself because I can easily relate to this blog post at this point in my life. My family is at an interesting point in our lives where cars seem to be a main focus in family conversations, especially disagreements. I bought my first car, a Toyota Echo, because it is small and fuel efficient. I was attracted to the car because it is easy to drive and park. In some ways I felt more feminine purchasing a small, fuel efficient car. I do not think I would have been comfortable purchasing a pickup truck or big SUV. My brother, however, has just received his first car, a Ford F150. Since receiving his first car, he has become obsessed with trucks. This obsession has grown to the point that he actually made our family take pictures of him next to the different trucks he encountered in the parking lot during our vacation in Texas. I often feel that he makes a point of bragging about his truck and it’s big engine and manual transmission because it makes him feel more masculine. Therefore, when I compare the gender influences of my brother and I’s first car choices, I became aware that these gender differences have remained with the car industry into the new millennium. Just like the advertisement in the blog says, many women enjoy driving small, easy to maneuver cars while men want to prove themselves with large masculine cars. Advertising has definitely impacted this image in American minds.

  2. I agree with the previous comment about the image of masculine cars and feminine cars. During football games you are pelted with Ford F150 commercials or Dodge Ram commercials with celebrity tough-guy voice overs telling you this is what a man drives. They are pretty much telling you, once you buy a truck your testosterone will spike and you’ll want to start driving in the mud and cutting down trees. Also with the manual since its a dying technology, I do feel that it is also the more masculine choice in cars. When i see a guy pull up in a sports car and I see its an automatic, my first thought is to just shake my head and think thats a shame, its just what has been put in my head throughout the years of commercials and movies. Men drive stick shifts.

    On another note, I was watching a show recently about General Motors, and it was talking about their advertising scheme. It mentioned that they tried to show that each one of their brand divisions was for a different part of a mans life. Starting with a Chevy as your first car, then moving up to a pontiac in your late 20s, an Oldsmobile in your 30s, and a Buick for your later years. And naturally a Cadillac for when you’ve “made it” in life. Just thought this was an interesting idea.

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