This ad is from the June 1956 issue of Sunset Magazine (the magazine of western living!). And so, six pages later, is this one:
Interesting differences, aren’t they!
The Lincoln advert is a bit boring, and the ’56 Lincoln is in no way “the most beautiful car in the world” (don’t worry, just give it another five years). Cadillac’s ad seems to be pushing all the right buttons, but then you look closer: “Buy it for resale value and practicality, not snobbishness! The car-by-the-pool trope, even though nobody’s in the water or dressed to go for a splash. At least they’re ready if someone falls overboard with both inside and outside float rings (those are also how we know it’s The Racquet Club in Palm Springs and not some lame house party). These aren’t 1960s Pontiac ads where the car was always the center of attention despite how glamourous the people and settings were; here the Cadillacs are just getting in the way; nobody’s even looking at them. D+ for Lincoln, B- for Cadillac.
Re: the Cadillac ad, what is it that Jan and Dean once said in 1963’s “Surf City”?
Something like “two girls for every guy” (the guys in the background don’t count).
But less surf-rock smirky and much more sinister, Vance Packard’s Hidden Persuader’s (1957) message is: two Cadillacs – get you two middle aged guys – at least four beautiful young women.
This was the hidden and intentional message in the ad.
I wanted to go into advertising when I first read Vance Packard’s (1957) book, but like all best laid plans, gang aft a-gley.
“gang aft a-gley”?
Sorry ravenuer… It’s sort of an inside joke for some old timers. Here’s the explanation:
In November of 1785, The poet Robert Burns was plowing his fields when he turned up a mouse’s nest, which somehow deeply disturbed him and influenced him to write of this experience that evening.
The original line, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley .
This translates as “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go askew.
In the poem, Burns expresses the sorrow of his disturbance of the nest, which must have taken planning and time to build, and his quick destruction of it was symbolic of man’s disrespect of “Nature’s social union” and the inevitable disruption of even the best intentions.
My plans to go into advertising went askew when Adelphi University ended their advertising major more than one year after I had enrolled in it. Already in debt for more than three semesters of tuition (my best laid plans), I had no choice but to pivot to the one major that used all of my acquired and costly credits: Marketing (which I felt was a weak soup version of Advertising) and thus my plans going askew.
THANK YOU ! .
A clear and concise explanation .
There are actually four men in the ad. (Five if one counts the fellow almost completely obscured by the floral arrangement in the center of the photo – is he supposed to be a waiter or a bartender?)
Some of the men are easy to miss because the men are all dressed alike, and one is sitting and another is partially obscured by a car. The women are all standing, nothing is hiding them, and they are not all dressed alike.
Both ads are kind of boring in their own ways, although the Cadillac ad does have a bit more going on. The car by the pool trope seems particularly hard-pressed here as there’s absolutely no reason I could imagine why anyone would bother to back that giant car into a narrow spot between the wall and the pool.
Then again, my initial thought when seeing the Lincoln ad was that they were just leaving a cemetery; albeit a very nice cemetery with a doorman/gate attendant.
Sunset magazine is a terrific source of mid-century aspirational advertising.
The Lincoln photo shows it has no room for hat, but there’s plenty for cattle.
That’s something the last 50 years of movies & TV always gets wrong–before ~1960, everyone wore a hat outdoors. Now they send actors out in the rain hatless.
Nash’s closed wheels didn’t start a real trend, but both Lincoln and Caddy halfway followed for a few years.
Packard too, in 1955-56. But Caddy had been doing the slightly-closed front wheels since 1950.
I like this series of Caddies, they don’t look that long in the flesh .
Aha! I’d heard Mr. Galanos’s name—seen in the Cadillac ad—somewhere along the line, and I see he was a CA-based dress designer for the elite (at roughly this ad’s time, for Grace Kelly’s wedding). Interesting!
Thanks for this vintage post from a time when upscale vehicles were OTT excessive and luxurious! 🏆. In 56 Lincoln was trying to increase sales and move to rival Cadillac. The 56 Lincoln was longer than before. I’ve said it before in other posts (and don’t remember the source) that for 56 Lincoln won an award from an industrial design association for styling. These ads definitely show Lincoln was moving forward, while Cadillac was still resting on it’s Laurels! 😉 SO sad to see what is now considered a luxury vehicle 😢. Take those SUVS and put them where the sun never shines! 😄 😁 🤣.
Cadillac definitely not resting on their laurels in the 1950s. All-new bodies every two to three years, drivetrain tweaks, new suspensions, fuel injection, advances in air conditioning, and new styling every year that all of its American competitors followed.
Cadillac offered fuel injection in the 1950s…? News to me; please elaborate.
I’m remebering 1958 custom-crafted Eldorago Broughams having had stantard air suspension; availability was expanded throughout the Cadillac range for 1959 and 1960. But that’s not fuel injection which did appear but on other GM cars; So down one, Cadillac pushed through the Sedan de Ville and Coupe de Ville hardtops with their frameless doorglass and vast outward visibility. (stylish and influential if not structurally rigid). Again, not resting on their laurels.
Cadillac was also ahead in offering the popular hardtop Coupe and Sedan de Ville models with their open door Ffeyk’frames.
“All-new bodies” looked very similar from about 1950. The fin and taillight dates back into the 1940’s. This was the last year of a why mess with success styling theme. 1957 would finally break from the past.
’56 Lincoln… for those who wanted class, not flash.
I’ll certainly agree with you that the ’56 Lincoln’s design is classy. Harder to reconcile that Wisteria colour with “not flash”, though, and the same goes for a good bunch of the other colours available. Could sure as all hell wish for a pallette like that on today’s cars!
The Caddy ad reminds me of a tenuous situation where high society women arrive at a gala affair only to discover, to mutual horrors, they are wearing the same designer gowns. “Honey, let’s go to the Racquet Club in Palm Springs so we can show off our newwwwwww Cadillac (by the never used pool), to make others jealously green with envy!” On the other hand the two guys are just showing off their two hotties.
The Lincoln ad; will he also be driving it to the pearly gate(s) when the time comes?
Madison Avenue turned out some weird car ads. These fit.
I always park my cars, on the patio, next to my swimming pool. Doesn’t everyone? What, no pool? Well, there are those plastic round ones from long ago. No patio? Well…
Cadillac, slice of the Rich life. Lincoln, showing up after the party.
I’ve owned both brands and I’m more of a Cadillac guy, but of those two I’d actually pick the Lincoln. Mainly because I don’t like convertibles, but also the Lincoln looks so futuristic to me. I love the lines on it. But no matter what, I’d happily accept either car as a gift.
The Lincoln in that ad looks like it had been stomped upon and stretched. Those ads of that era were quite deceiving.
It is a bit of a mystery how Mister, there in the driver’s seat of the Lincoln, has room for his hat.
He does look a bit pasted in there.
Both ads are trying to portray grace elegance and wealth. Evening gowns, dinner jackets and a gated estate. That is a far cry from the fast paced hip-hop music ads of today.
THe Lincoln looks more modern than the Caddy of the same year but from there its been downhill for Lincoln ever since the bland version JFK was shot in is their best effort since but its boring, Cadillac went on to overdo every styling cue they could find.
Both cars have been enhanced, dimensionally; the Cadillac seems to have been stretched, while the Lincoln has definitely been stepped on. You’d think either action would yield the same result—but somehow that’s what I see. Were we really all fooled so easily, back then . . . ?
Both ads feature real cars, not artistic drawings, and in the 1950s it was very hard to alter photographs while making them appear real. Much goes into staging a photograph to create certain concepts, like how long a car appears. One way is to place someone near the front door as done in the Cadillac ad. This breaks up the car’s line, and for most people the car psychologically appears longer.
Another way to manipulate the view is to portray the car’s occupants as being smaller than they really are. Studebaker ads in the 1946-55 period were often artistic renderings, not photos, and the people in the cars looked positively tiny.
The 1941 to 1954 Henney-Packard ads and brochures featured ambulances and hearses in drawings that seemed to lower the cars by at least 15 inches, while adding several feet to their length! I’m attaching a 1951 Henney-Packard hearse brochure. Compare it to a genuine photo of a Henney-Packard and you can’t help but see the difference.
But both cars in these ads are actual photographs. In that case, I would expect the people in the Lincoln would have been chosen based on their size. I used to date a lady who was a hand model. She was petite and had very small hands that were beautifully proportioned. Her hands were featured in many cosmetic and toothpaste photographs. But those toothpaste tubes & boxes looked really big!
Another way to make a car look longer & lower is to have surrounding items appear taller, like the pillar, fence, & gate. And of course the mailman is just as small as the people in the car, and stationed next to the tall gate to provide a visual comparison that suggests a long & low vehicle.
The camera location also aids in making the car look longer, as it shows the hooded headlight to great effect. The ’56 Lincoln looked longer than the Cadillac thanks to the triangulated ends of the 4 corners of the car, the front fenders leaning forward, and the rear fenders leaning rearward. When Lincoln lengthened the top ends of the fenders, they also had to lengthen the outer rear bumper ends. This is why most people don’t like the 1956 & ’57 Lincolns when equipped with an aftermarket continental spare tire, it was simply too much!
Thanks for this ‘splainer, Bill!
What I notice is the utterly different tone of the two ads. Here are two cars ostensibly in direct competition. The Cadillac ad doesn’t show the car being driven, or even sat-in; it mostly shows posh pool-party people and a servant or two, and its sparse copy is mostly about how wise and satisfied is the buyer. The Lincoln ad shows just three people, driver; passenger, and gateman. The car is in motion, and the much more voluminous text is mostly about the car—its design; its power; its suspension, its luxury.
I agree – the Cadillac ad is hawking the Cadillac lifestyle, while the Lincoln ad is hawking the car itself. Poor Lincoln, it didn’t have a chance. If you have to talk about what a good (or beautiful) luxury car you have, you are toast next to the one that everyone knows will present you with a golden ticket to the good life.
I guess the other side of the if-you-have-to-ask coin is if-you-have-to-tell!
The 1956 Lincoln was all-new, and larger than the previous generation of Lincolns. The 1952-54 “Road Race” Lincolns were good cars, but, during development, the target had been the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. At the last minute, Ford management realized that completely abandoning the luxury market to Cadillac was not a good idea, and thus tried to upgraded the cars to “Cadillac status.”
The 1956 Lincoln had been designed from the start to compete directly with Cadillac. No doubt Lincoln felt the need to emphasize that this Lincoln was all-new, and thus different from the previous generation.
Cadillac was firmly established as the top dog among American cars by 1956. The styling was instantly recognizable (even among people who didn’t particularly care about cars), and the mechanical merits of the car were taken for granted.
Poor Imperial. Even with “Forward Look” and a bizarre taillight, it looks kind of plain compared to these two. Not an ad, but a “Fashion Show” folder.
The “Lincoln” looks a bit “Packard esque.”
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