Vintage Ad: 1985 Pontiac Grand Prix – Aren’t You Glad?

1985 Pontiac Grand Prix

If one compiled a list of all car ads that borrowed a tagline from a brand of household supplies, we’d end up with… well, maybe just this example.  Using a variation of Dial Soap’s long-running “Aren’t You Glad You Use Dial” slogan, Pontiac aimed to capitalize on what may have been the Grand Prix’s most distinctive feature – a dashboard with over a dozen round dial-ish shaped openings.

The Grand Prix was part of General Motors’ “G-special” range of coupes that sold by the zillions in the late 1970s through the mid 1980s.  However, the Grand Prix sold more modestly than its Buick, Oldsmobile or Chevrolet counterparts – in 1985 60,000 Grand Prix coupes found customers, less than 40 percent of Oldsmobile’s Cutlass Supreme production.

From a marketing perspective, the Grand Prix faced a few hurdles.  For one, by the mid-1980s, this was really Yesterday’s Car – a traditional rear-wheel drive personal luxury coupe trying to keep its head above water in the front-drive aero age.  Additionally, Grand Prix seemed to be overshadowed by its GM siblings.  And aside from styling details, little distinguished the G-special offerings from GM’s four divisions.

1984 Pontiac Grand Prix ad

Grand Prix Ads and promotional literature from the mid-’80s revolved around vague notions of style and luxury, such as shown in this 1984 ad.  But even this ad focuses on a particularly notable feature – Grand Prix’s dashboard with more round things than anything other than aircraft instrument panels.

1985 Pontiac Grand Prix

And that brings us to our featured 1985 ad.  Again, this shows an image of the car and one of the dash, but with the tagline:

Aren’t you glad we use dials?  Don’t you wish everyone did?

“Dials” here refers to Pontiac’s optional Rally Gage (gauge in GM’s unique dialect) package, which supplemented a tachometer for the standard Grand Prix’s giant dash-mounted clock, and added oil pressure, water temperature and voltmeter gauges where round warning lights otherwise resided.

In reality, this looked more impressive than it was.  Of the 15 round openings in Grand Prix’s dash, just six were gauges.  Eight were air vents, and one contained a pod of warning lights.  But still the dash looked neat, and Pontiac can’t really be blamed for showing it off.

But then there’s slogan.  Nearly everyone at the time would have instantly recognized it as a variation on Dial soap’s long running Aren’t you glad slogan.

1954 Dial soap ad

This became one of the longest-running and most successful slogans in advertising history.  First used in 1953, this slogan changed Americans’ views of soap.  Prior to Dial’s popularity, most Americans considered there to be little difference in soap brands – the Aren’t you glad campaign changed that by convincing consumers of the benefits of antibacterial soap, while tactfully avoiding mentioning the embarrassing effects of body odor.

1990 Dial soap ad

Dial quickly became one of the leading soap brands in the United States, and Aren’t you glad persisted in various forms as a sales pitch into the 1990s.  The above ad was published at about the same time as our featured Pontiac ad.

1985 Pontiac Grand Prix

As noted in small print at the bottom, General Motors obtained permission from Dial’s parent company Armour-Dial, Inc. to use a variation of the soap slogan.  Both companies evidently considered it in their best interest to share the promotion.

Whether this ad dialed up interest in the Grand Prix is hard to say.  Sales fell 23 percent from 1984, and the next year fell an additional 32 percent – though such a sales decline is hardly unexpected with an aging car model.  Regardless, General Motors’ and Armour-Dial’s brief collaboration here left an interesting footnote in the Grand Prix’s history.  And I am glad about that.