Vintage Ads: Automobile Magazine 1997 New Car Issue – Still Thick With Print Ads

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While the consumer internet was furiously picking up steam in the late 1990s, people continued to read a lot of magazines.  So print advertising continued to be a great way to reach consumers.  The October 1996 issue of Automobile Magazine was filled with ample print ads, including several multi-page inserts.  In some cases, “multi-media” was pushed too–prospects were encouraged to send away for VHS tapes of additional information.  The print era would soon be coming to an end, but for a bit longer advertisers could still “Party Like It’s 1999!”

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Lexus had a 4-page ad unit on the inside front cover touting the all-new ES300.  But who could tell?  This car would earn my vote as the least noticeable major refresh ever–to me, this Lexus was virtually indistinguishable at a glance from its predecessor.

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Nothing like alcohol advertising in a car magazine!

Mitsubishi spared no expense when it came to showcasing their 1997 wares.  The following is a 12-page insert on heavy paper stock, essentially like a full-line brochure bound into Automobile Magazine.

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Depend on having a great time at a Mitsubishi dealer?  That seems like a stretch, buy they sure were trying!

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The tagline of “Imagine Yourself In A Mercury” rang hollow, as this was clearly a Ford Explorer, inside and out.

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Dodge ran a great deal of advertising in Automobile Magazine–this 8-page insert is one of three ads Dodge ran in the October 1996 issue.  By the mid-1990s, Dodge was arguably the most aggressive company when it came to promoting a racing and high performance image.

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Auto-by-tel was a pioneer in getting dealers and consumers online (or connected via phone) to drive sales.  The company still exists, though it has been eclipsed by newer, bigger digital car shopping services.

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Land Rover has been incredibly consistent through the years in-terms of creating aspirational, evocative imagery to promote the vehicle’s go-anywhere capabilities.  Far more effective than showing 1997 Land Rovers in their more likely habitat–aka dealer service bays…

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How about a Pathfinder video tape?  Snake not included!

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To this day, I love watching MotorWeek.  Back in 1997, it was actually much harder to find on TV, though luckily it was carried where I lived at the time.  I even used to record the shows, on VHS tape, to watch them again when I wanted.  Talk about high tech–we were livin’ large in the 1990s!

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“Garage-ability” was a key selling point for the jumbo SUVs, as domestic makers pushed ever-larger trucks to be used as primary family vehicles.

Based on these ads, the market shift to trucks was becoming increasingly evident.  While there were still plenty of appeals to enthusiast drivers, more and more the focus was on conquering the terrain rather than handling the road.  That style trend toward “go anywhere capability,” though softened a bit for the reality of today’s tall rolling cocoons, is as popular as ever 20 years later.