These Classic Cadillac Ads Exude Elegance And Glamor
“The power of a Cadillac never diminishes.” This statement was used in Cadillac’s advertising back in 1905—only a few years after the foundation of the company—and it characterizes the identity this legendary American carmaker managed to forge in the century since. Barring a few forgettable efforts in the 1990s, the brand maintained its status throughout the 20th century, and its advertisements have remained surprisingly consistent about what to emphasize on the cars and the lifestyles they led to, which surely contributed to the mythic nature of this American icon.
The cars that we think of when we hear “Cadillac” have extremely long bodies and expressive, round silhouettes, traits long associated with comfort (an indispensable quality in order to promote car as a means of transportation), safety (before crumple zones and airbags, size was one of the best defenses), and quality (longer, wider, better), but these weren’t the key factors of attraction, just contributions.
After the war, and especially in the sixties and seventies, the great big cars from Cadillac were marketed as specimens possessing supreme levels of finesse and a sharp elegance, especially in the case of the famous Eldorado models. The demonstration of “its great beauty and luxury” was augmented by associations with some of the other finer things in life; to drive a Cadillac was to be appreciated by the high society, as it were. All of the elements used in Cadillac advertisements depict this lavish material universe composed only of the peak social crowd and their most prized possessions: jewelry (diamonds by Van Cleef & Arpels or Cartier are depicted in many ads in the formation of the Cadillac “V”), impeccable dresses from the most exquisite garment materials (Cadillac heavily featured elegantly dressed women in their commercials, often on a night “out on the town,” the bill of which was surely a stately one), or even some extravagant embroideries, the associations elevating the car to the heights of supreme luxury—or such was the marketing plan anyway.
Of course, the emphasis on the car’s aesthetic magnificence was complemented with technical innovations that provided pleasures in the actual act of driving these land yachts. Innovations in this regard could refer to the “refined” engines that “move the big car so silently,” early air-conditioning systems, fiber-optic warning systems, and other safety features. The wide choice of interior and color options was also a key factor in demonstrating the Cadillac as a perfectly adaptable and personalized luxury car, magnifying its driver-focused character in a markedly different way than sports cars that define that in terms of road feedback and chassis rigidity—not so in a Cadillac.
In fact, every Cadillac advertisement is staged a little bit like a Hollywood scene and luxury and theatricality are the main components of their ad output over the decades. I hope you enjoy these vintage advertisements like I do, retro and nostalgic sure, but they provide some interesting and more timeless insight into how the automobile has been viewed as a symbol of status in addition to any mechanical merits. Another angle on the timeless debate of function and form, I suppose.