Monthly Archives: September 2015

Vivid failure: the art of the 1959 Edsel

The death row '59 Edsel shined... on paper, at least.

The death row ’59 Edsel shined… on paper, at least.

The enduring saga of the ill-fated Edsel is like a dog-eared copy of To Kill a Mockingbird – a cautionary lesson, wrapped in Americana, about the failures of man and the processes that are supposed to guide, protect and lend stability to society.

And everyone knows the ending.

The short-lived Ford Motor Company marque was one of the biggest marketing failures in corporate history, but the jokes and comparisons live on to this day.

And so does the advertising, spawned from the colourful brushes of commercial artists during the heady (and boozy) heyday of American ad men.

Only a year after the Edsel landed in the marketplace with a thud and a fizzle, its fate was sealed by a bean-counting exec named Robert McNamara – a man determined to chop off the dead weight that was threatening to pull down the entire company.

Before taking the Edsel behind the barn, McNamara, who went on to direct the Vietnam War as Secretary of Defence for presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, first chose to slash the ad budget for the simplified 1959 lineup.

Unlike the ungainly and controversial ’58s that debuted to a dumbfounded and unimpressed American public, the styling of the ’59 Edsel could at least be described as acceptable.

And even though their contracts would be short, the illustrators employed by the downsized advertising team did their best to make the ’59 Edsel look at home in America.

The results looked far better than the car’s future.



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