General Motors Holden: To Suit all Family Needs (1956)

General Motors Holden: To Suit all Family Needs (1956)
General Motors Holden
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This television advertisement for General Motors Holden emphasises the Holden sedan’s suitability to the needs of the family.

A family of six walk out of their house to the car. One of the sons helps his father pack the luggage into the boot as a voice-over narrator describes the spacious interior of the car, which can seat six people.

The family, now in a studio, are seated in a car with no exterior body and appear to travel on air, through clouds. The carriage rocks gently from side to side to simulate movement on the roads.

The narrator emphasises interior features including the wide seats, increased leg room, soft foam padding and seat springs. The narrator reminds the viewer of the car’s style, comfort and value for money before the Holden slogan appears on the screen – 'Australia’s Own Car’.

Summary by Poppy de Souza

In the mid 1950s, the family unit was a primary target of Holden television advertisements and this ad is a strong example. GMH was proud of the car’s ability to accommodate the average Australian family. The opening scene – the parents and kids packing up the car for a holiday or weekend away – positions Holden at the centre of domestic suburban life. This technique is also used in General Motors Holden – Australia’s Ideal Family Car and General Motors Holden – Saturday Kind of Car, both of which align the Holden with a certain domestic experience be it shopping, holidaying or just getting the kids from A to B. The spacious Holden interior is illustrated by showing the carriage from the side without the motor body in the way. It is a simple but effective device, despite the somewhat off-putting clouds which make the family look like they’re floating through the sky rather than driving on the ground.

The final section of the advertisement brings the viewer back to the initial scenario – that of a family on holiday. The narrator recaps the car’s features and states that Holden owners get 'more for your money’. As well as the economic and practical benefits of driving a Holden, this advertisement builds on its slogan as 'Australia’s Own Car’. The narration taps into the feelings of pride associated with driving a Holden and aligns the car’s features with making 'going places so much more fun’. These two elements – practicality and pride –are strongly featured in this ad and run throughout GMH’s advertisements of the 1950s and 1960s.

The postwar baby boom meant the average family size in the 1950s was four to five people. This Holden sedan could seat up to six people (albeit four very small ones in the back). The increase in family size, along with an era of burgeoning suburbanisation, gave the Holden a ready-made market. The whole family could drive off in a Holden for their annual holiday in relative comfort and at a reasonably economical price. 

Notes by Poppy de Souza

Education Notes

This black-and-white clip with narration and music score shows a 1956 television advertisement for the Holden FE sedan. A family loads their holiday luggage into the boot of an FE Holden outside their home while a male narrator describes the car’s comfort and storage capacity. A studio scene shows the family seated in a model of the car’s interior to highlight the seating comfort and leg room. The clip concludes with the car driving through countryside and bush landscapes. An onscreen graphic ‘HOLDEN Australia’s Own Car’ is used.

Educational value points

  • Holden’s early marketing targeted the growing suburban families of the post-Second World War baby boom. In the 1950s Holden had a strong customer base made up of suburban family units of two adults and two or more children. At the time, family motoring holidays were becoming increasingly affordable and popular, and Holden emphasised the versatility, comfort, reliability, roominess and economy of its cars.
  • The advertisement presents particular features of the Holden FE – its increased boot capacity, room for six passengers, and an increased window area from the earlier FJ model – as attesting to the car’s suitability for long-distance journeys and family motoring holidays. A car that could accommodate the family holiday was appealing at a time of growing family sizes, increasing prosperity and expanding motor ownership.
  • The clip features a scene of a Holden carriage suspended in the air against a studio backdrop of clouds, an unusual technique that highlights the car’s interior and emphasises its seating comfort for six passengers. The intended effect of this fantasy-like approach may have been for a family to associate an enjoyable magic carpet-like ride with long-distance travel in the Holden FE.
  • Post-War developments in transport infrastructure, more leisure time and the affordability of new cars gave Australian families the mobility, time and ability to take motoring holidays as encouraged in this clip. Owning a family car also came to symbolise the growing affluence of many post-War families. Holden promoted its cars as reliable, and as such ideal for everything from local shopping to interstate family holidays.
  • In the mid-1950s consumer purchasing ability, strong sales and increased production capacity positioned the Holden as the most popular choice of vehicle among Australians. Holden’s average annual production increased from 42,492 FJ models in the four years to mid-1956 to 62,064 FE models released over the following two and a half years.
  • The clip reflects the increased size of families in post-War Australia – the family unit in the advertisement consists of a mother and father with four young children. The average number of children in the Australian family unit had expanded from 2.36 children in 1945 to 2.71 a decade later – a result of the post-War baby boom and migration (families with children were prioritised). This rapid population expansion in towns and cities led to the beginnings of what we now call suburban sprawl.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia