The 1960s: Halcyon Days For Hommes d’un Certain Âge

James Kraus

JK - 1 (46)

1965 Mercury Monterey with a trio of distinguished gentlemen and their consorts

According to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 51% of consumer spending is now done by people over 50, yet this group is the target for a mere 10% of marketing activity; this according to Bob Hoffman of the always entertaining Ad Contrarian blog. Bob further points out that millennials, who buy barely 12% of new cars, are featured in about 99.9% of new car advertising, even though consumers over 50 are the ones that have all the money.  

Although this is a trend that has been decades in the making, it was not always thus. Digging through archives at the AU headquarters tower, I have unearthed images from automotive advertisements and sales brochures of the bygone Jet Age that depict a wonderful array of mature gents, silver foxes and debonair men of means all on the far side of the half-century mark.

To set the context, I created a backstory for each image in an effort to recreate the subtext that the original illustrator might have had in mind.

1960 Buick Electra 225. This seasoned gent just paid cash for a new Electra. Just last week he bought a white mink coat for his wife.

1960 Buick Electra 225. This seasoned George Clooney doppelgänger paid cash for a new Electra just a week after splurging on a new mink coat for his wife.

1960 Jaguar XK-150. With his year-end bonus, this chap bought a new XK-150 and sent his daughter off on a Caribbean cruise.

1960 Jaguar XK-150. With his year-end bonus, this chap bought himself  a new Jaguar and sent his daughter off on a Caribbean cruise.

1960 Imperial This wizened veteran just overheard some inside information at the New York Athletic Club and is dictating a memo to his secretary reminding him to double down on his Xerox and Polaroid positions while his driver whisks him to lunch at The Four Seasons.

1960 Imperial Le Baron. This wizened banker overheard some inside information earlier in the day at the New York Athletic Club. He is now dictating a memo to his secretary reminding him to double down on Xerox and Polaroid while his driver whisks him to dinner at The Four Seasons.

1963 Chrysler Imperial Crown. This fellow is handing over a personal check to pay for his new 1963 Crown. He spotted it while bringing in his ’62 Imperial Custom Southhampton for an oil change; liked the colour and bought it on the spot.

1963 Imperial Crown. This fellow is handing over a personal check to pay for his new Crown. He spotted it while bringing in his ’62 Imperial Custom Southhampton for an oil change, liked the colour and bought it on the spot.

1964 Mercedes-Benz 220 SE This suave oldster owns a villa in Juan-les-Pins and keeps his yacht berthed at Port Gallice. He is on his way to Société Monégasque de Banque Privée to visit his money.

1964 Mercedes-Benz 220 SE. This suave oldster owns a villa in Juan-les-Pins and keeps his yacht berthed at Port Gallice. He is on his way to Société Monégasque de Banque to visit his money.

1965 Oldsmobile 98. The graying rogue departing this Ninety-Eight Holiday Sports Sedan is treating his niece to dinner at a fine Continental restaurant. As he is the restaurant’s landlord, his meal will be comped.

1965 Oldsmobile 98. The graying rogue departing this Ninety-Eight Holiday Sports Sedan is treating his niece to dinner at a fine Continental restaurant. As he is the restaurant’s landlord, his meal will be comped.

1967 Pontiac Executive The proud owner of this new Pontiac is en route to his country club in celebration of his latest promotion.

1967 Pontiac Executive. The proud owner of this new Pontiac is en route to the country club to celebrate his promotion to Divisional Vice President.

1968 Cadillac Fleetwood 75. This patriarchal Wall Street broker, ensconced in the rear compartment of his Fleetwood and eyeing a new Eldorado (reflected in the window) to possibly acquire for his beach house in the Hamptons, has bought and sold more young strivers over the course of his career than he can remember.

1968 Cadillac Fleetwood 75. This patriarchal Wall Street broker, ensconced in the rear compartment of his Fleetwood is eyeing a new Eldorado (reflected in the window) to possibly acquire for his beach house in the Hamptons. He has bought and sold more young strivers over the course of his career than he can remember.

That was automotive marketing in the 1960s. Today it is No Market For Old Men. Advertising and marketing mavens have forgotten an enduring axiom: Old age and treachery will always beat (or in this case; outspend) youth and exuberance.

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