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Anatomy of a Dodge and Plymouth Television Advertisement

After finding these photos dating to 1959 of Dodge and Plymouth artwork taken at WBAP, a television station located in Fort Worth, TX, we became interested in finding out how the images were inserted into an advertisement.

Not knowing anything about the process it appears these drawings supplied by the Chrysler Products Corporation were pinned to a board on a wall at the station and filmed by a TV camera in the order in which they appeared in the advertisement. We are hopeful that our readers will be able to fill us in on the process of exactly how a TV ad was composed back in the pre-digital age.

To learn more about the cars view both a 1959 Dodge and a 1959 Plymouth sales brochure at The Old Car Manual Project. Share with us what you find of interest in the photographs courtesy of The Portal to Texas History.

12 responses to “Anatomy of a Dodge and Plymouth Television Advertisement

  1. There’s something odd about the drawings apart from them depicting the base models of the two cars in somewhat grand settings.
    The Dodge Coronet 2-door sedan drawing appears to have the stretched roof of a 4-door sedan while the Plymouth 2-door sedan drawing of a model available only as a Belvedere and Savoy, has the side trim similar to a Savoy but with an added broader portion towards the rear that wasn’t available.

    That suggests to me the drawings were done in the summer of ’58 prior to the finalizing of the designs and release of the brochures (the Dodge brochure is dated 8-58)…otherwise, why not photograph the actual brochure…unless copyrights prohibited that?) and certainly prior to availability of the actual production cars in Texas.

    I’m puzzled that they would produce a TV ad using the somewhat inaccurate copy available at that early date…and so long before the cars’ introduction. Was it really approved by Chrysler Corporation or was this a renegade effort by some insider at Chrysler and the TV station? But then, being the first to release new car pics was a very big deal back then.

  2. David, I have no info on the artwork (just lust, ha !), but WBAP was also a radio station that we listened to late at night that was mostly “country” music when we lived in Ft. Worth from 68 through 70. The DJ was a gent named Bill Mack that often mentioned cars, so he may have been one of the enthusiasts that helped with this. Very neat pictures , thanks a lot !

  3. Wow, I’ve never seen these before, and my family was selling Chrysler-Plymouth back then. Of course, we weren’t sponsoring TV.

    But I do work in advertising and I’m guessing these were possibly used as backgrounds for “bumpers” – the still “sponsored by”, most likely for a locally-produced show sponsored by a local dealer or dealer network. The lead ad agency usually creates the national bumpers.

    In any case, the text would have been superimposed, either photographically or direct to the broadcast.

  4. The commercials could have been done two ways: 16mm film or live/kinescope.

    The film would be simple, take silent footage of the illustration. Record dialog, then cut the film to the appropriate length for each shot to match the script.
    When aired, they would simply run the film (on what was called a “film chain” a 16mm projector combined with a camera. (As a kid, I wondered if TV stations just projected the film in a darkened room in front of a studio camera).

    If it was live you would have two or more illustrations, and two cameras. They would be photographed at the same time, a director in the booth would switch shots by selecting a camera. While one image was being shown, another illusory could be place in front of the camera which was not “luve”. Unlike film, this process would allow one image to “fade” into another.

    with that method the commercial could have been done live, or more likely, with a kinescope device which is a film camera linked to the studio video camera or feed.
    Remember this is well before the days of video tape being in wide use, especially at a local level.

    This is a bit of speculation on my part, as a college student in the 70s, I interned at a local TV station in the final years of film and the early days of news crews using portable video tape units.
    The locally produced or broadcast commercials were on huge 2′ wide video tape, either on metal reels or an early cassette which looked like a modern day ink cartridges, not a VHS cassette we would all know in the 80-90s.
    The stations still had film chains used to broadcast local news film or locally shown movies or TV reruns. (Back in the days when local stations would show old movies in the afternoon or late at night and like today would show twins after the local news and before “prime time”. The film’s would be deluded in large metal cases, while then popular reruns like The Beverly Hillbillies or The Mary Tyler Moore Show, would be delivered in 16mm format that the stations would get a complete set of episodes to keep on hand for the duration of their contract with the studio or syndication company.

  5. I am going to surmise that the monochrome drawings were used because the TV cameras in use by local stations at that time had difficulties properly rendering color into B&W video for air use. As for photographing brochures, they were often printed on high-gloss paper stock and that might cause a reflectivity problem. Of course, they could (and possibly were) copied by a 35mm camera onto monochrome transparency copy film and then inserted into the film chain as slides for on-air use (videotape not really being in general station use at this time). Shooting “supe-slides” of titles and graphics for slides remained a common practice at local stations well into the early 1980’s when electronic graphic generators became more available at reasonable cost.

    • In a broadcast journalism class they showed us how to photograph a glossy B&W photo without glare, you’d shoot it with a matte spray.
      Being comptroller kids, someone came up with the idea of just costing them with roll-on deodorant.

      David, thanks for reminding me about the slides, I’d forgotten about them. We had a box of them with generic graphics…auto wreck, plane crash, fire…with at either a home or larger building, murder (a white chalk body outline, IIRC)…which would appear being the anchor thanks to chroma-key.

      I worked in TV news about 15 years ago and the young kids just out of college couldn’t believe the stuff I told them about the old technology…getting film developed! Since then there has been smothered revolution as tape has given way to digital and you can edit your story video at your desk, no editing suite necessary.

      all this talk about film before videotape makes me sound like I worked with Dave Garroway, Robert Q. Lewis or Walter Cronkite…and I’m not THAT old.

      • John – I started out as a Film Librarian/Feature Editor at the local CBS affiliate in 1971, fresh out of the Army. A few years later they also had me creating “key-slides” for the newsroom out of colored paper that were then shot in 35mm on a camera stand. I got $35 apiece for them! Eventually became the Film Department manager and when videotape and digital replaced 16mm movies and syndicated I transitioned into a Master Control Engineer. In all, thirty-years in broadcasting and saw more changes in technology than I ever imagined (and almost all of it obsolete now!).

  6. The illustrations remind me of the times my friend Ron G and I would hop on a streetcar in Milwaukee and ride to the west end of a string of car dealers…about 10 of them. We would hit each one, taking with us any brochures available. The most interesting place to me was a humble little storefront, Wisconsin Imports. There was room for a single small car in the showroom, a MG TF on the occasion of our first visit. At home later I would pour over those brochures endlessly…even the duplicates. Most of the images were drawn, and the thought of who had drawn them never occurred to me until much, much later. The answer to that questions remains elusive…at least for the artwork of the fifties and sixties. Art Fitzpatrick is the exception., and understandably so.

  7. Do a YouTube search for “Bombastic Dodge Ad” and you’ll see the introduction commercial for the 59 Dodge. In my opinion, the best TV commercial. Ever.

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