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Selling Life Journeys

"Life's a journey, not a destination."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Throughout the 20th century, car manufacturers answered to the changing needs of their customers by designing and advertising vehicles for consumers from all walks of life. These ads reflect the desires of single youth, demonstrate the need for safety and space for growing families, and showcase luxury for those finally able to afford it. Cars were not only advertised for different life stages - they were also sold as something that could offer consumers the option of returning or traveling between life stages.

These advertisements are based on the traditional life paths, from bright-eyed teens to senior couples. Cars for single youth were usually advertised as stylish, fast, economical, and adventurous. Family cars were described as spacious, reliable, and safe. Cars for older consumers featured comfort and luxury.

Each ad offers a perspective on life stages and reveals something about the time period in which it was created. Sometimes these ads target more than one life stage. Pay close attention to the pictures and the text. How do they compare? How are life stages being sold? Although we have focused on age and marital status, ideas of gender, race, class, and sexual orientation can also be found in these ads.