Looking at this group of ads you might make any number of assumptions about how auto advertising changed after the sales slump of the mid-50's. You're first guess might be that Detroit decided to focus on showing only yellow cars! But no.
From flipping through a huge number of magazines what I found to be interesting is the arrival of quite a few big-name New York and West Coast illustrators on the scene including Jon Whitcomb (above) and Bruce Bomberger (below) as well as...
Austin Briggs and...
Stan Galli, just to name a few. Why did Detroit look outside its more than capable hometown talent pool? Perhaps the words of Walt E. LaDriere, owner of one of the largest and most successful Detroit art studios of the day can provide the answer. From his article in the September 1953 issue of Art Director and Studio News:
"What is good art from the artist's standpoint and what is good advertising sometimes do not come under the same category. Art is and must be an expression of the times.
Let's never forget that our job is to sell and the art that sells best will always constitute the trend in advertising art."
Artists like those shown above epitomized the look, the style and the trend of the times. The popular strategy among art studios was to get their artists assignments illustrating magazine fiction stories so the public (and advertisers) would grow familiar with those artists' names and their work. In a sense, they became celebrities and seeing their signature on an ad was not unlike a celebrity endorsement for the consumer, a sort of vote of confidence from a recognized trendsetter.
Of course plenty of other auto ads were run at the same time to target other market niches, including quite a lot of photographic ads. But as the 50's was drawing to a close, one dynamic pair of illustrators was speeding to the forefront of auto ad illustration. Tomorrow, a look at the art of "AF/VK".
* All of today's images can be found at full size in my Auto Ads Flickr set.