The Wrath of Kahn. How old blog post about even older “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” is still stirring the pot.

October 22, 2010


Sorry son, only the tagline lives on…

This is not your father’s Oldsmobile. The line has become a pop culture catch phrase, in the same ilk (albeit attached to worse advertising) as “Got Milk?” Try reading your morning paper and not finding a variation on it. For example, about a candidate: “This is not your father’s Democrat.” About a technological innovation: “This is not your mother’s sewing machine.” And so on. Sadly enough, more Americans are familiar with the Olds’ slogan than they are of Shakespeare’s finest sonnets. Way more.

As I remember it, a soft-spoken creative director at Leo Burnett by the name of Joel Machak wrote that famous line. Yours truly actually came up with the campaign’s tag: “The New Generation of Olds.” Both pieces were intended as lyrics. That’s right, a jingle! As a matter of fact, I was brought in (just a kid at the time) to help Joel come up with the refrain. The piece went together as follows (sing along): This is not your father’s Oldsmobile…This is the new generation of Olds.

Given it’s continued popularity I decided to write a piece about it, in 2008. Since then the story continues to provoke readers to comment on the campaign. The debate mainly revolves around who actually penned the line, including a recent missive from then creative director, Don Gwaltney. (Hi Don!)

Before I go on, let me state that all the posted arguments are more than less valid. Don Gwaltney. Ted Bell. Jim Ferguson. David Caldwell. Joel Machak. Me. We were all in the proverbial room when said campaign got said. Have a look at the string and catch up on your ad history: My post, 2008

What’s ironic is that when this campaign was in its heyday most of us were not particularly proud of it. We knew it was catchy but we also realized it was damn silly. As the commercials caught on I remember feeling pretty foolish about what I’d created. It wasn’t until years later I actually put a couple of the spots on my reel and even then I did so with trepidation. To my recollection the campaign never won a single creative award. A few years later Oldsmobile went out of business. The adline proved true to a fault. This was not your father’s Oldsmobile. Dad’s Oldsmobile was good. These cars were mediocre and overpriced.

Be that as it may, the campaign became a part of advertising history –even American history. And people want their props.

With equal parts embarrassment and pride, I give you one of the first commercials, which I wrote, for “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile.”

Bill Shatner & Daughter \"Space Age!\"

5 Responses to “The Wrath of Kahn. How old blog post about even older “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” is still stirring the pot.”

  1. Tad DeWree said

    Cocky, egotistical creatives such as myself often scoff at the drivel our competitors create.

    In the case of “Not your father’s “.

    It’s just pure jealousy.

    It actually made me ask.”…maybe I ought check them out?”

    One of the great advertising lines of this our any other generation.
    Anyone who doesn’t recognize this doesn’t understand our business.

  2. Noel Haan said

    It was the first slogan to use Jedi Mind Tricks.
    My father drives an Oldsmobile.
    No, It’s not your fathers Oldsmobile.
    Okay?

  3. Marc Biliti said

    I am the boy in this ad. I was about 10 years old at the time. And for the record I was driving a Mustang in the year 2000.

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