Curvin O’Rielly has been kind enough to allow us to publish this article on McNaughton Automotive Perspectives. For those of you who don’t know Curvin, he is one of the most respected copywriters in the advertising business. Among his automotive accomplishments was the creation of the Saturn brand with his colleagues at Hal Riney and Partners. As you will see, Curvin’s perspective on automobile advertising is both timely and timeless.
Everything “Old” Is “New” Again
By Curvin O’Rielly
In 1982, when I was a young creative director at BBDO in New York, I was asked to write an article about the automobile business for Magazine Age.
The article was well received. I even won an American Business Press award for it. The question is, has it stood the test of time?
Well, some of the details I included in the article are as dated as the wide ties we used to wear (the ones you’re saving, hoping they come back into style again), or the disco music we used to listen to (admit it; you boogeyed to disco), or the haul-ass iron we used to drive, the cars with more horsepower than their suspension systems and brakes could reasonably handle (unless they were well-engineered vehicles from Europe).
What’s still true about my article, unfortunately, is that the automobile industry is once again in deep trouble. This time, it’s poised at the abyss, owing in part to the economic tremors that came close to causing a complete meltdown. At the abyss, too, because it was smart (or so it prided itself) but then not smart enough. I mean, surely those at the wheel had to have seen all the danger signs on the road they were heading down, just as they had to have known they were racing toward a disaster of epic proportions.
That said, here are the observations I made 28 years ago, with some minor rewrites here and there.