Advertising has changed a lot in the last 40 years. Before the internet ushered in the era of algorithms serving ads for a spoon we browsed three days ago on Amazon, a team of creatives would design a commercial to appeal to a broad range of consumers while attempting to sell to a wide range of potential customers. As a result, we got commercials with both humor and heart. Take a look at these old commercials for various A-Body vehicles from General Motors that Autoweek compiled. They all hail from the early- and mid-1980s, and they’re fascinating to watch.
The most interesting ad out of the bunch is the one from 1983 for the Buick Century. A robot butler is delivering a cup of coffee while the narrator talks about all the great benefits technology adds to our daily life. It ends with a gentleman getting behind the wheel of the Century, the narrator droning on about how technology won’t replace the joy of driving a Buick. In hindsight, the hubris is hilarious. Oh, and even the Century’s base engine was electronically fuel injected, just so you know.
The ad for the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera is as equally aspirational. Here, it’s all about the Oldsmobile’s sharp styling in an era of boring cars. Apparently, the boxy, cookie-cutter appearance of the Cutlass Ciera and other GM A-Body cars was lost on the commercial’s producers.
The Pontiac 6000—such a futuristic nameplate—takes a humorous approach to sell the family car to the masses. Here, a family of crash test dummies takes the Pontiac for a spin as the commercial tires to sell the 6000’s interior roominess to the masses. The final commercial for the A-Body quartet shows off the Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport. The two-tone paint scheme of the car in the ad looks sporty enough with the purpose of the add celebrating the Celebrity’s sportier handling.
Old commercials are always fascinating to watch. On the one hand, they are windows into the culture of the time, showing the lifestyle Americans aspired to achieve. On the other, old commercials illustrate how consumer tastes have changed. Before, it wasn’t unheard of for a commercial to sell a new vehicle based on simple mechanical features like its suspension or aerodynamic design.
Boy, times have changed.