As a superfan of American auto advertising, and as a companion piece to yesterday’s article about 1960 Buicks, I’d like to today explore some of the 1960 BOP advertisements from my collection. The best place to begin is the most obvious; Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman are the heroes of the automotive advertising world, and their work for Pontiac in the 1960s stands apart from everyone else’s – nobody could touch them. Even though they also illustrated Buick and Opel ads, the bulk of their work was with Pontiac. This 1960 Bonneville looked good in real life, but Fitz/Van made it, and us, a star.
Aside from presenting the cars themselves in the best light, Fitz/Van also parked the cars in locations where you wanted to be. We were always our best selves in their world. We were powerful functionaries, rich playboys, owners of glamorous sailboats, beachcombers, or just attractive people walking in the rain with other attractive people.
We might also be the owner of a ski resort; after all, who else would be allowed to park his Bonneville in a place that obviously isn’t designated for parking while others look on with envy rather than anger?
Not all ads featuring Pontiacs, however, were illustrated by the aforementioned masters of their trade; Delco Radio used a Bonneville Safari to prove that a good radio is a better option than carrying a marching band on your roof in the desert.
Over at Oldsmobile, it didn’t take long for the marketing department to understand Fitzpatrick and Kaufman’s appeal, and they used illustrated ads for several years in the 1960s, but they somehow missed the mark a little. Maybe it was the scenery. This Super 88 is parked in front of a nice midcentury house on Saturday evening, but that scene could happen to anybody. A Manhattan or two, or three, and you’re on your way home trying to keep that big Olds in between the lines. Back to the real world.
In all seriousness, marketing departments used illustrations liberally throughout the 1950s, so they were nothing particularly special. The 1960s, on the other hand, ushered in a decade of photography, which made Pontiac ads stand out all the more. Not only were Fitz/Van ads done well, their medium was also increasingly uncommon. This Oldsmobile ad, in which a photograph was the featured image, would become the industry standard by 1965 at the latest. It’s certainly less dramatic than an exaggerated illustration, although this Super 88 looks wide enough in real life that Oldsmobile didn’t need any illustrator’s tricks.
Nor did Buick, although studios such as Boulevard Photographic in Detroit used plenty of camera tricks to stretch out their subjects if the shoot called for it. Buick ads of the 1960s were often plainer than their contemporaries, but this one is at least colorful, although I’m not exactly sure what this couple’s up to. Neither looks angry. Is he coming or going? Why is she just sitting in the window? Is she just seeing him off so she can watch the new Buick drive away? “I hate to see you go…”
Perhaps Buick’s advertising theme in 1960 was perplexity. In this ad, this mother seems to be using her new Buick as a school bus to drop off the class for a field trip to a country road. She’s leaving, while several adults wander away from a group of children that are looking back longingly at the car, wondering where Mom is going. It’s a confusing premise, but the car looks nice.
Now this is more like it. Buick sometimes got it right; in this case, they emulated Pontiac ads on film. Two glamourous couples are parking the new Electra 225 at the marina, dressed to kill for a party on the yacht. Of course, one of them will have to drive home afterward, but that’s a worry for another time. As we all know, advertising is just rudimentary psychology. If GM’s advertising is any indication, Pontiac sold the lifestyle best and they had the sales numbers to prove it, but Buick and Oldsmobile paled by nothing but comparison.
Fitzpatrick and Kaufman would continue illustrating Pontiac ads all the way up through 1971, but by that point, advertising had become far more utilitarian. Look at any car ad from the 1970s and you’ll realize that the golden age was gone – many ads included a picture of the car with a lot of dreary text about its specifications, which was more useful but less fun. There were always exceptions, but few would argue that 1960 was prime time for interesting advertising, and it didn’t hurt that the cars themselves were interesting subjects. Only one question really remains – who do you want to be today?
See below for a few more examples:
The old ads were really great. Thanks!
the Pontiac was the looker and would be for the decade
You’re exactly right.
The illustrations made the cars look like a widened low rider version of the real thing. Drawn years before trade description regulations . Perhaps one of the biggest culprits was the Mini with four adults seating with space between them in the rear. Must have been midgets.
For me, the Buick wins for 1960.
Seems then Ford and Chrysler also used illustrations who imitated AF/VK style with the 1964 Dodge and 1965 Mercury.
I really like Mercury’s 1965 campaign – I have many of them in my collection, too. A couple of years ago, I picked up a Swedish 1965 Dodge Dart brochure filled with illustrations, as well.
Several of those ads openly emphasize that the car was too wide for the road or the garage.
New satisfaction at every turn! I’m satisfied that I got the car around this bend without having to back and fill more than three times!
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair! I need to weave a cover for my Turbine Drive Buick because it won’t fit into the castle!
You too can block an entire road just like the ship blocking the Suez Canal!
In the ad with the red Buick she’s looking on to see if he can back that Buick into the garage without simultaneously scraping both sides, and how much (not if it) will stick out. The garage was built for something narrower, shorter in length and taller in height.
The driver of the blue Buick is making an Austin Powers 32-point turn.
I have always wondered whey older houses from the 50s and 60s tend to have small garages – how they heck did they fit any contemporary cars in them?
My parents’ house was built in 1967. The garage looks small, but it could fit a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale hardtop sedan. There wasn’t much room left over fore and aft, but it was wide enough for the car, a lawn mower and two bicycles.
Must 60s -70s British garages were built to house the narrow cars of the day, Austin 1100 and Cortinas. Drive in today’s SUVs and you have to climb out the sunroof. That’s why the garages are full of crap worth just a few hundred pounds. The £30000 car sits out side in the rain!.
I was going to say that he’s about to find out that the peroxide seriously weakened Rapunzel’s hair.
I like that they call the Buick “trim.”
The lady driving the blue Buick had to cut the corner to make that turn, and drove on the grass quite a bit. That ad would make me think twice about buying a big car.
It’s surprising these Buick ads didn’t appear (in B&W of course) in a midyear revision of the Rambler X-Ray brochure…
Supposedly, Lee Iacocca said, “You sell the sizzle, not the steak”.
And, man, did Pontiac ads sizzle in the sixties.
One of my favorites from 2 years before. The ads had Buicks flying through the air, coming right at you! Also the artists added little sparkles to the Dynastar grille and in other places, because this car is so NEW!
In case it wasn’t clear, Fitzpatrick rendered the cars and Kaufman the background and people. A fruitful collaboration.
I like Pontiacs, but after all the Buick goodness from yesterday’s and today’s posts, “Yes, I really would rather have a Buick!”
Pontiac sales were up for 1960, Olds and Buick were down
Buick came in 3rd of the three and surprisingly did worse than 1959
that said, I think the Buick is good looking, certainly better than the Olds
I always love that these ads featured “the better element” of people. Ladies wearing white gloves (huh?), men chicly attired, homes always of the most modern style. However, to show the car without options, you see manually operated windows, no tinted glass, no air conditioning. Sure, everyone forking out those bucks wants the base car. Fun ads. Have you ever seen one of these cars advertised with the owner of a refuse company leaving work to drive home? NO!
You had to turn to Volkswagen for the blue-collar life…”How the man who drives the snowplow drives TO the snowplow?”
Volkswagen was the only other brand whose print advertising in the 1960s was on the same level as Pontiac’s. Yet the advertising couldn’t have been any more different, much like the cars themselves were.
As an auto advertising veteran of 30-plus years, I can attest to the universal respect (even reverence) for Van and Fitz throughout the industry. When it comes to their 1960s work for Pontiac, it’s hard to think of another campaign that qualifies as true art. Don’t get me wrong, I love digital technology–but the magic of CGI cannot compare to the romance of the illustrator’s craft.
I’ve in and out of the ad business, but mostly with design firms.
That said, AMEN to to your last sentence.
These ads are great. This was an era when people dressed up to go shopping, or to the airport (in the days before airline deregulation, flying was expensive relative to income, so even going to the airport was a big deal). President Kennedy caused a stir when he went hatless on several public occasions.
The Pontiac and the Oldsmobile do look wide, long and low in real life. The Buick less so, perhaps because of the upturned front fender brows and rear fins.
I believe Fitz/Van also did a dramatic ’58 Cadillac Fleetwood illustration.
When will the book that is a comprehensive compilation of their work be released?
I’ve long thought the same thing – I’d love to adorn my coffee table with a complete compilation of AF/VK Pontiac advertising. I checked Amazon to see if such a thing exists; it doesn’t appear to, although there are 2021 calendars featuring twelve of their illustrations.
The family with the red Pontiac convertible in front of Marineland could of been us. I was the oldest with two younger siblings and we frequently went there, as we lived just a few miles away. The ride, however, was a blue ’59 Chevy wagon. Close.
Who allowed that photo of the black Electra 225 with the driver’s wiper sitting higher than the other one see the light of day, let alone be published? That’s something that never happened in the artwork.
It’s an odd photo. The angle makes the car look narrow compared to the shot of the blue/green one above it. I wondered at first if the photo itself had been altered.
The height of mid-century glamour. I feel the need to rewatch the first season of Mad Men.
Fitz’s illustrations made the Pontiac the best looking of all the “Dulled Down” 1960 GM models.