Great As Is

Sometimes it seems that certain objects in antique shops whispering “Buy Me” when we first walk by them get louder when we return for a second look, causing us to heed that inner voice crying “You’ll be sorry if you don’t.” I answered that call recently by taking home an announcement news portfolio of promotional material for the 1952 Packard, realizing full well the “As Is” card attached to the cover suggested that not all the preview inserts had survived.

The “Press Preview” packet was missing, apparently long since “on its way to your local editors,” yet most of the other inserts were there including full-color foldouts of various Packard models with emphasis on how Dorothy Draper, famous decorator and color stylist, had lent her talents to the “most luxurious cars in the world.” Also highlighted in the ads were Ultramatic Drive and Easomatic Power Brakes. The foldouts and a timetable on the flaps indicated specifically when the advertisements would appear in November and December 1951 issues of The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, Life, Time, and Newsweek along with circulation figures of each periodical. Other pockets contained newsprint inserts of ads that would appear in 1200 to 1300 papers in the United States and Canada, promotions which would reach 45 to 50 million readers. Inside yet another pocket were color pages scheduled to appear in Sunday Supplements such as This Week and Parade reaching 22 million readers.

A memo sheet from the desk of Packard Advertising Director Hugh Hitchcock encouraged Packard dealers to take advantage of all the showroom material in the packet of 1952 literature.  Of particular interest to this fan of old-time radio was a complete booklet of suggested 15, 30, and 60 second “Announcements for 1952 to meet your own special needs.”

A full flap of the portfolio emphasized how the 1952 Packard would get full national network radio presentation on The Red Skelton Show on Announcement Day, November 14, 1951. Shown prominently on the flap is a grinning Skelton before a CBS microphone and in smaller photos in costume as some of his comedy characters. Under a photo of actress Lurene Tuttle is the word Charm and below a pose of announcer Rod O’Connor the phrase Commercial Sell. The strong points for advertising on the show include being one of America’s top ten radio shows that reached more than 13 million listeners over 129 CBS stations for 91.4% of the entire CBS radio circulation, ideally positioned on Wednesday evening between popular Dr. Christian and The Bing Crosby Show.

It might have been “a surefire way to spread the news of the new 1952 Packard from coast to coast.”  Perhaps what sold me more than anything that in that Packard packet was that I had recently listened to all of the episodes of The Red Skelton Show and did not remember hearing any promotion for the Packard automobile. At that time Red’s sponsor was Norge Refrigerators. Listening again to that November 14, 1951 transcribed episode at home verified my recollection of the show. After the usual opening introduction by O’Connor, the show falls into the usual pattern: Rod and Red banter a bit about clothes or current events, a musical number by the Smith Twins, a Norge commercial, a skit about Willie Lump Lump, a skit about San Fernando Red, a number by David Rose and his Orchestra,  a Norge commercial, a skit with Red as Junior and Lurene as his harried mother, a final promo for Norge by Rod who then turns it back to Red to deliver the Norge slogan “You won’t know what you’re missing if you don’t see Norge” before theme music and the CBS tag by Rod closes the program.

Red Skelton’s radio theme was “Great Day.” I still consider the portfolio a great buy “as is” even if the promised great “Announcement Day” did not occur on Skelton’s November 14, 1951 show.


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