© 2017 ICTA
If you’re a baby boomer and you try to think of the many ways you saw Checker advertised in the sixties and seventies, you probably don’t remember any, certainly not TV commercials, I can’t remember any. How did Checker advertise? Print magazines was the main media used
You might remember some print advertising. Unlike the big three’s color glossy ads, Checker’s retail print advertising was small, typically in the back of the magazine. As a boy my first look at a Checker ad was in National Geographic. In between the articles on archeology or primitive cultures you could always find a small ad about one inch by two inches.
Black and White, minimal verbiage, the reader was instructed to write for a brochure to the Kalamazoo, Michigan company. That’s how I got my first brochure when I was twelve years old. Was this the only advertising, National Geographic? For years I thought so, boy was I wrong.
Several years ago I purchased a collection of magazines produced by the ATA (American Taxicab Association), thumbing through the collections that spans the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s its very clear that Checker got their monies worth out of the Herbert Baker Advertising agency.
The ads really fall into three categories. Some ads generate broad themes about the Checker. Other ads focus on key features of the Checker. The third category is ads that seem to focus on special campaigns to resolve a pressing issue.
The earliest ad I could find was from 1950. The ad is very interesting, its runs a slogan “Checker goes round the world”. Along with text the ad promotes Checker use all over the world. In the ad, there are eight pictures of Checker A2’s in Tahiti, Saudi Arabia, Hawaii, Finland, Sweden, Brazil, Norway and Greece.
The majority of the Ads in the ATA News promote the low cost of Checker. Ads promote Checker’s overall low cost or the low maintenance cost of Checker’s. One ad ran the headline “Here’s Proof Positive, Checker costs less to operate”, along with graphs and charts. It’s highly likely that these ads were generated to let the taxicab fleet buyer internalized that over the long run the low running cost for Checker would offset the higher initial purchase price of a Checker.
Other ads reflect that entire cities were running only Checker taxicabs. One ad in particular ran the slogan “Checker, the Gem of Columbia”. Apparently in the early 60’s every licensed cab in the growing city of Columbia, South Carolina was a Checker. My guess is that there was only one taxi operator.
One of the first feature type ads published in the ATA News was for the Passenger Forward Compartment option. Around 1960, this option eliminated the jump seats and moved the rear passenger seat forward. Doing this allowed Checker to offer a significantly larger trunk. Not sure which is better for a cab more trunk room or more passenger room.
In 1960 Checker was promoting safety features for the passenger. One feature discussed was the flat floors. The flat floor would prevent a passenger from tripping over a transmission hump. Another safety feature advertised was the fact that the passenger seat was behind the door protected by a double walled rear fender panel. Well it was a feature if you didn’t purchase the Passenger Forward Compartment option.
The most ominous feature advertised was “The Checker Survival Plan”. The ad in the mid seventies highlighted the bullet proof divider option. The text ran as follows: “Things are tough all over. Remember when all you had to worry about was impossible traffic, unbelievable hours and unsympathetic lawman? Now it’s a matter of survival.” The moral of the ad, you better buy a Checker with the bullet proof divider or you might get killed. The ad does not actually mention death, but it’s clearly implied.
From time to time Checker would run an ad campaign that clearly was addressed a pressing corporate issue.
During several periods Checker would push used Checkers. In 1959 several ads were run that pushed used A8’s in Chicago or New York. In one ad it’s very clear that Checker is trying to unload a fleet of A8’s operated by the Checker owned National Transportation Company in New York.
As Checker was expanding into the consumer retail market, several ads were run to emphasize that new dealers were being added to the Checker dealer network. In one national ad, Checker advertised to find participants to a Checker dealer meeting to be held at the Park Lane Hotel in New York City. “Find out why Checker Dealers Make More”. Learn about Checkers and hang out on Park Avenue, hey I’d go for that!
Overall the ads are interesting to read. They are far more exciting than those little National Geographic ads. It was clearly a different time, could you imagine a car company not advertising on TV, yet still selling 5000 cars a year? It’s probably not possible today.
very informative,great job.
What a great article!