When Ransom E. Olds lent his moniker to one of America’s first automakers all the way back in 1897, he couldn’t have known that 90 years into the future the Oldsmobile brand would make an ill-fated attempt to distance itself from the geriatric associations of the Olds surname. At the end of the 1980s, Oldsmobile was determined to shake the image that it built boring cars for sleepy seniors. The end result was the indelible “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” catchphrase, birthed from one of the strangest publicity campaigns to ever emanate from Detroit.
Key to the entire enterprise was an absurd set of television commercials that paired past-their-prime celebrities with their decidedly not-famous children. Described as ‘silly‘ even by their original copywriter, Steffan Postaer, the TV spots seemed determined to both shame Oldsmobile’s existing buyer base of dads and grand-dads while also confusing prospective new customers being pitched by people they’d never heard of.
Anyone who was conscious at the end of the ’80s and beginning of the ’90s remembers the ‘This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile’ ad campaign, that ludicrous, and unfortunately for Olds, indelible statement that helped usher in the end-game for the brand. I dove deep into the wackiness that was ‘The New Generation Of Olds’ for Motor Trend.