On the Tube: Celebrities Endorsing Cars



July 17, 2012

Some were unforgettable. Others just made you go, huh? Here’s a look back at some famous celebrity car commercials preserved on YouTube.

Many surveys suggest only about 1 percent of car buyers purchase a vehicle because of a celebrity endorsement. But that doesn’t stop marketers from trying. When the personality and the message mix, you get the memorable advertising genius that was Lee Iacocca selling Chrysler and Ricardo Montalban talking about the “soft Corinthian leather” inside the 1975 Cordoba. When they get it wrong, you’re left with the sort of commercials that make a person wish they could have those 30 seconds of their life back. Anybody remember those primetime slots with Tiger Woods behind the wheel of a Buick? As if.

Penn-oo-mele Kiki Bobo

Actor David Leisure played the fictional spokesman Joe Isuzu in a series of television advertisements for Isuzu cars and trucks from 1986 to 1990 — the heyday sales years of the Japanese automaker in America. While the company is still known throughout the world for their small trucks, Isuzu abandoned the United States consumer market in 2009 due to lack of sales.

 

See the USA in Your Chevrolet

The Dinah Shore Chevy Show was an NBC variety series hosted by Dinah Shore from October 1956 to June 1963. The series was sponsored by the Chevrolet Motor Division of GM and its theme song, sung by Shore, was "See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet", which continued to be used in Chevrolet advertising even after the cancellation of the show. 

 

Oh, Ricardo

Best known for his roles as Fantasy Island’s Mr. Roarke and Star Trek’s Khan Noonien Singh, Ricardo Montalbán was the smooth-talking spokesman for the Chrysler Cordoba in the mid-70s, when he famously exclaimed “Look what they’ve done to my car” and extolled the "soft Corinthian leather" used for its interior. Montalbán also advertised the Chrysler New Yorker in magazines in 1986.

 

If You Can Find a Better Car, Buy It

Throughout the 1980s, the "Motor City's Most Famous Motor Mouth” and the best known auto executive since Henry Ford — legendary Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca — appeared in a series of 61 commercials for the company's vehicles, using the ad campaign "The pride is back" to denote the turnaround of the corporation. Iacocca is credited with leading Chrysler back from the brink of bankruptcy and government bailout during those years.

 

Have a favorite celebrity car commercial? Care to share your least favorite? Log your comment below or head on over to the Historic Vehicle Association’s Facebook page, tell us what you think, and see what other members are saying.

 

Comments

  1. Donald J. Kral Crossville, TN

    I would never buy any product because they used a high paid celebrity who already has a good job. I would more likely buy their product if they hired my neighbor who needs a job to promote it. On the other hand, I WOULD NOT buy a Ford right now because I am really sick and tired of Mike Rowe and their STUPID commercials. Does anybody remember Ford's 1960's commercials where "Ford has a better idea for 66" and the one year(1969) they didn't use that slogan?

  2. Pat Price Moses Lake, Wa.

    Anyone else remember Danny Thomas doing commercials for the Jeep Toledo?

  3. Ed Sallia Portland, Oregon

    The ones I loved were the old Studebaker Commercials with Tom Bosley, Eric Severied and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Also the adds for the Studebaker Lark on the Mr. Ed Show.

  4. Ed Sallia Portland, Oregon

    The ones I loved were the old Studebaker Commercials with Tom Bosley, Eric Severied and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Also the adds for the Studebaker Lark on the Mr. Ed Show.

  5. Phil Portland, OR

    Dustin Hoffman did a commercial for Volkswagen in the late 60's.

  6. Brian Adams Reno, NV

    Actor Rex Harrison: "The new Dodge Aspen is unbelievable!" with chorus answering "Unbelievable!"

  7. Jan Witkowski Huntington, NY

    For lovers of classic British cars and the music of Cliff Richard, here is Sir Cliff enthusing (and grumbling) about his Jensen Interceptor Mark I. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3Xp8hT_2gc

  8. Rick Burlington, VT

    How about that sexy Janine Turner (Northern Exposure) whispering about the 1989 Chevy Beretta??

  9. Bob Watkins Memphis, TN

    Rock Hudson did some commercials for DeSoto in the late fifties. In one I believe he referred to DeSoto as "a man's car." Of course, Groucho Marx did many commercials for DeSoto throughout the fifties.

  10. Will Norristown PA

    Richard Dryfuss did a commercial for the 1968 AMC Javelin. Played a street thug. Laughable.

  11. art wegweiser Allison Park, PA

    I fully agree with Donald Kral. For almost anything, and besides cars, if some celebrity advocated it or slapped his/her name on it, I avoid the thing if at all possible. These "designer" things usually have nothing to do with the designer except they get a slice of the action for using their names and hence, the price goes up. I will admit a few car ads are cute - good for amusement only, however. And some are really annoying and dumb

  12. art wegweiser Allison Park, PA

    Some are amusing yes, but that's all. Many are stupid. Does anybody really think Tiger Woods drives (or did drive until he screwed up) BUICKS, of all cars?

  13. Karl WI

    Grouch Marx was a long-time pitchman for DeSoto in the early/mid 50s

  14. John Rowe Tampa, FL

    William Shatner and daughter for Oldsmobile in late 80's... Jack Jones for Chrysler New Yorker.....

  15. John Rowe Tampa, FL

    William Shatner and daughter for Oldsmobile in late 80's... Jack Jones for Chrysler New Yorker.....

  16. Dick Seattle

    If we include "product placement" in movies as "advertisement", i submit: Woody Allen starting an ancient VW Bug in "Sleeper", and every Ford company product line (including the crushed Lincoln) in "Goldfinger"