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Pre-War Buick Advertisements


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Since I was kid I've enjoyed old car advertisements in old magazines like the National Geographic, and the Buick ads were and are special favorites. These high resolution images of Buick ads come from the Saturday Evening Post, and most are unlikely to be found in good resolution elsewhere. Hope people will consider sharing any pre-World War II Buick ads they have. This set is from 1928, but I also have Buick advertisements for most years from 1913 to 1941 if by any chance there are any requests for ads for a particular year. If you double click on them you can enlarge them to read the text if you'd like....

 

 

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More Buick advertisements from 1928. It was only a little earlier that Buick went to sometimes doing color advertisements, which was obviously quite expensive at the time. And clearly the electric windshield wiper was a significant development that year.

 

 

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28.9 electric windshield wiper.jpg

28.9 fisher buick.jpg

28.12 buick.jpg

28.12 buick gift.jpg

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4 hours ago, benjaminhuf said:

An advertisement from October of 1940 for the 1941 Buick—the Fireball that was the "Best Buick Yet"....

 

Thanks!  My favorite line describes the pistons -- "cupped in new contours to complement the dome of the cylinders, they roll the inrushing fuel charge into a flattened and turbulent ball, packed fat with potential power."  I would love to learn more about the marketing fellows who came up with this stuff.  Did each division have it's own advertising department?  Was this before Madison Avenue?  I assume so.  I welcome anyone who knows the answers to these questions to chime in.

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58 minutes ago, neil morse said:

 

Thanks!  My favorite line describes the pistons -- "cupped in new contours to complement the dome of the cylinders, they roll the inrushing fuel charge into a flattened and turbulent ball, packed fat with potential power."  I would love to learn more about the marketing fellows who came up with this stuff.  Did each division have it's own advertising department?  Was this before Madison Avenue?  I assume so.  I welcome anyone who knows the answers to these questions to chime in.

 

The piston tops had cupped domes, not the cylinders.

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20 hours ago, neil morse said:

 

Thanks!  My favorite line describes the pistons -- "cupped in new contours to complement the dome of the cylinders, they roll the inrushing fuel charge into a flattened and turbulent ball, packed fat with potential power."  I would love to learn more about the marketing fellows who came up with this stuff.  Did each division have it's own advertising department?  Was this before Madison Avenue?  I assume so.  I welcome anyone who knows the answers to these questions to chime in.

Neil: Yes, I agree that ad copy is wonderfully over-the-top.  I enjoy the words as much as I enjoy the art in these old ads. 

 

I did find some information on the ad agency used starting in c. 1935 from the book "The Buick: A Complete History" by Terry Dunham and Lawrence Gustin. The edition I have was published in 1980, but I think it's since been revised and expanded. Anyway, on p. 160-163 of the edition I have here's what it says....

 

"Harlow Curtice planned a zesty campaign for the new 1936 Buicks from the beginning. AC's advertising [where Curtice was president before being promoted to lead Buick] had been handled by Erwin Wasey & Co. during Curtice's spark plug days, and he had been impressed with the capabilities of the account executive Arthur Kudner....when Kudner decided to organize his own firm Curtice quickly offered him the account. It was a decision he never regretted. Curtice brought Kudner and his men right into the Buick offices, kept no secrets from them, treated them as an integral part of the Buick team. There were there for some nine months before their first ads appeared. Their close collaboration—most unusual in the industry—paid off. Art Kudner and his group were fired up. Eye-catching and provocative headlines like "Hot? It's a Ball of Fire!"...followed...."Buick's the Buy" became the first Kudner advertising theme—and a lot of people bought. Production of the 1936 models would total 168,596 units, a 317-percent increase over 1935. And Buick would outsell Pontiac and move into sixth place in the industry."

 

And in the late 1930s and early 1940s one of Buick's significant competitive advantages over it seems almost all other brands for a few years was in terms of piston design, giving Buick engines more power than found in almost all other cars. And the ads like that vivid one you quoted make the most of that.

Edited by benjaminhuf (see edit history)
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Some Buicks from 1929, and if it's ok to add an extra here's an advertisement for a piano some Buick people probably had in their homes. (Even adjusting for inflation, a Steinway at $875 was more affordable way back then for a comfortable but middle-class family that owned a Buick than it would be today....)

28.12 steinway.jpg

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23 hours ago, benjaminhuf said:

Neil: Yes, I agree that ad copy is wonderfully over-the-top.  I enjoy the words as much as I enjoy the art in these old ads. 

 

I did find some information on the ad agency used starting in c. 1935 from the book "The Buick: A Complete History" by Terry Dunham and Lawrence Gustin. The edition I have was published in 1980, but I think it's since been revised and expanded. Anyway, on p. 160-163 of the edition I have here's what it says....

 

"Harlow Curtice planned a zesty campaign for the new 1936 Buicks from the beginning. AC's advertising [where Curtice was president before being promoted to lead Buick] had been handled by Erwin Wasey & Co. during Curtice's spark plug days, and he had been impressed with the capabilities of the account executive Arthur Kudner....when Kudner decided to organize his own firm Curtice quickly offered him the account. It was a decision he never regretted. Curtice brought Kudner and his men right into the Buick offices, kept no secrets from them, treated them as an integral part of the Buick team. There were there for some nine months before their first ads appeared. Their close collaboration—most unusual in the industry—paid off. Art Kudner and his group were fired up. Eye-catching and provocative headlines like "Hot? It's a Ball of Fire!"...followed...."Buick's the Buy" became the first Kudner advertising theme—and a lot of people bought. Production of the 1936 models would total 168,596 units, a 317-percent increase over 1935. And Buick would outsell Pontiac and move into sixth place in the industry."

 

And in the late 1930s and early 1940s one of Buick's significant competitive advantages over it seems almost all other brands for a few years was in terms of piston design, giving Buick engines more power than found in almost all other cars. And the ads like that vivid one you quoted make the most of that.

 

That's very interesting about Kudner.  He must have been a big man in the ad game because there's an episode of the TV series "Mad Men" in which the "Arthur Kudner Award" is mentioned.  But I could find surprisingly little about him online.  Here's a brief mention in an article in Ad Age about another agency that merged with the Kudner agency:

 

The shop was Kudner Agency, founded in 1935 by Arthur Kudner on Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. work and large chunks of General Motors business, including Buick. Mr. Kudner died in 1944 before his agency made TV history. His most enduring legacy as a copywriter was to be the phrase "Athlete's foot," coined in the cause of Absorbine Jr. But by the late '50s Kudner's fortunes began to slide with the loss of Buick.

So "Athlete's foot" may have been his most enduring legacy, but more on topic, he was also supposedly responsible for coining the name "Estate Wagon," which certainly went on to serve Buick well. 

 

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I recently read Alfred Sloan's book My Years with General Motors, which details how in 1920 GM was a total mess that was struggling for survival. In 1920 a triple whammy of chaotic and unrealistic management inside GM, a severe recession after the Great War, and brutal competition from Ford in 1920 (the price of the Model T was cut c. 25% in that year) left GM reeling. But in the early 1920s Sloan and a whole new team took over GM, and they started instituting a much better management system. Unlike Ford, which was basically a dictatorship, GM believed in a team approach, and in systematically, scientifically, and in a fact-based way examining the engineering of cars, the building of cars, and the marketing of cars. GM's market share grew from 12% in 1921 to an amazing 27% in 1926.

 

1917-1921

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1921.4 buick 150k.jpg

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In Sloan's book he says that in 1920 and 1921 the only divisions keeping GM from collapse were Cadillac and Buick. Sloan says that GM's own internal studies showed that the Chevrolet model of 1920 not only cost significantly more than a Model T, but didn't have nearly as good quality as the Model T. Some people in GM suggested to Sloan that GM's top management break up Buick's successful management and engineering teams and spread the people around to other GM brands, and Sloan said, more or less, "Are you insane?" Sloan then went on to say that the loyalty of Buick's customers to Buick, because Buick actually built a good car and knew how to market it, was the only reason any of them at GM had jobs at all. Sloan said let's learn from Buick how to do things right and make the customer happy, but we need to keep that winning team intact, and in fact reinforce it and reward them for their success with more resources. Soon the management of Chevy was also quite good, and although they never meant to beat the Ford Model T on price, they wanted to get close enough that people would say that for a bit more money I'm getting a better car. 

 

Sloan felt early on that better advertising was important to GM's success. Quoting Alfred Sloan:

"I had had some consumer studies made in 1922, and we found that people throughout the United States, except at the corner of Wall and Broad streets, didn't know anything about General Motors. So I thought we should publicize the parent company. A plan submitted to me by Barton, Durstine, and Osborn, now BBDO, was approved by the Finance Committee and our top executives....Bruce Barton was given full responsibility for conducting the campaign. We then formed the Institutional Advertising Committee, consisting of car-division managers and staff men, to assist Mr. Barton."

So this big ad with GENERAL MOTORS in huge letters was part of this giant campaign that started running in 1923 and went on for many years. Each division had primary responsibility for their own advertising, but all ads were coordinated to some degree so they could work in harmony, and each car division also usually had to say in all their ads starting around 1923 "a product of General Motions" and/or "division of General Motors."

Sloan says that the campaign was a success, and also had the effect of creating a greater group identity and esprit de corps within General Motors. GM employees saw the ads too, in other words, and thought of themselves more as GM people in addition to whatever division they worked for.

 

1923

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Sales at Buick continued steadily higher until about 1927. Even with the added quality engineering in Buicks, Buick was so profitable it was like a money machine in the 1920s. But until about 1926 Sloan says Buick—operating as a company within a company—mostly had control over their own finances. When GM wanted some of Buick's huge profits for another division, or to start a whole new brand like Pontiac, they literally had send accounting people and executives over to Buick and painfully extract the money from them. Buick had ways of hiding their money from GM—in special accounts and inventory—but in the end Buick still had to turn over most of what GM wanted. Around this time Sloan and the GM team centralized and modernized GM's accounting and financial practices, and by c. 1926 Buick lost most of its ability to hide and keep its profits from the parent company.

 

1924-1925

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25.8 buick.jpg

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While people are searching ads. Does any one have any reference for any documentation of the 1925 Sport models on the Standard Chassis? Mid year production indicates a 25S Sport Touring, 651 produced. 24S Sport Roadster, 501 produced and 26S Sport Coupe, 550 produced.

 I know things would show up in the Buick Bulletin early in the year (January/February) for introduction of sport models for the summer season. These ads for the 1922 and 1923 Model 55 Sport Touring and Model 54 Sport Roadster as an example. Also the Model 39, 4 cylinder Sport Roadster.

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885480773_thumbnail_2320Buick.thumb.jpg.0f8f72f93adc5f1c645834a042bda4bb.jpg

 

Edited by dibarlaw
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1928-1929 Just threw in the color ad for playing cards from this era for fun.

 

These are all high rez, and so if you click on them a few times and magnify to full screen you should be able to read the small text.

 

As we all know, in 1927 and 1928 Henry Ford seriously damaged his company because he could be autocratic and closed-minded. The GM ads about their "open mind" were a critique of Ford. Somehow Henry Ford thought for many years that the Model T would never need to be completely replaced. The "Car Wars" of the 1920s were epic in their own way....Here's the market share for each of the big three starting in 1925. Ford fell off a cliff when it had to suspend production of the outdated Model T in mid 1927 because of collapsing sales. It was quite a while before production of the Model A began, but eventually it was a big hit. Even though in 1929 Ford reclaimed first place in sales by a small margin by number of units, in terms of total dollar sales GM remained ahead because of their richer product mix. The game of cards when it came to cars was something that GM was better at with Buick and most of its other brands. That ad about GM's new fan belt shows how they could throw a lot of resources into making many of the parts of their cars better. 

 

Market share of the big three
1925 Ford 45% GM 19% Chrysler 3%
1926 Ford 37% GM 27% Chrysler 4%
1927 Ford 17% GM 42% Chrysler 5%
1928 Ford 16% GM 42% Chrysler 11%
1929 Ford 35% GM 33% Chrysler 9%

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28.11 jazz cards.jpg

29.6 buick photo.jpg

Edited by benjaminhuf (see edit history)
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From late 1928 an advertisement for a suit for a prosperous young man of that era that might be in the market for a Buick.

 

From 1929 an ad for the company that was part of GM that made the door handles and other fittings for Buicks.

 

Also from 1929 an ad for the short-lived companion car for Buick. The Marquette was a "budget Buick," but it didn't make much sense because at the same time Oldsmobile was introducing Viking, which was a deluxe, V-8 powered luxury Oldsmobile. Plus Pontiac had the upscale companion brand Oakland. Anyway, all of these extra brands would die in the early years of the Great Depression.

 

Last we have an ad from May of 1930 for a Buick. Again, these are all high rez, and so if you click on the images multiple times to go to full screen, you should be able to read the small text—if your computer screen is large enough.

28.10 suit.jpg

29.4 gm fittings.jpg

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30.5 buick.jpg

Edited by benjaminhuf (see edit history)
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Fantastic -- thanks so much for posting these!

 

As much as I appreciate the Buicks, I have to say that the Middishade suit ad is one of my favorites, so far.  What a great gimmick they had going -- you could get a suit in any color as long as it was blue!  Three piece, single-breasted with peaked lapels -- doesn't get more snappy than that.  And this has got to be one of the great advertising slogans of all time: "Sergical specialists -- operating on blues suits only."  I love this stuff -- can you tell? 😁

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I also enjoy the advertisements for fashion and other things as well. These first two ads are from 1928, one of which shows a huge advantage GM had starting around 1920—GMAC. Ford and most other car makers made you pay the entire cost of your car up front or find your own financing. But through GMAC you could buy a Buick with c. 25% down over a year or so with a low interest rate. Often the trade-in on your old car would cover your downpayment, and then you'd just have a monthly payment for 12 or 18 months. Already by 1928 I think something like 80% of GM buyers used the financing to get into a nicer car. 

 

The last two ads are from 1930. Just before the Great Depression hit Buick made the decision to move to Straight 8 engines for all its cars for the added power. During the 1920s the size and weight of Buicks went up fairly steadily, and so moving to a powerful Straight 8 made sense.

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30.8 buick.jpg

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