Hoist a very dry Martini before dinner Saturday to honor and toast the 19th Century Mad Men who convinced the Winton Motor Carriage Co. of Cleveland, Ohio to run the first automobile ad advertisement in Scientific American magazine, July 30, 1898. Consider it an homage to those who led the way for us who make or have made our careers in auto advertising.
This is the ad that appeared.
No, the layout is not up to contemporary standards, the illustration is only so-so, but carefully read the headline and the body copy. Now think of this ad in terms of today’s advertising for electric vehicles. There’s an almost eerie visionary prophetic sameness with the major selling points, isn’t there?
And the price, $1,000. Based on the Inflation Calculator using Consumer Price Index data, today the Winton would cost $25,853.94 — a number not that far off from Nissan’s Leaf or GM’s Volt, at least after rolling in today’s federal tax credits. (There wasn’t an income tax back then, of course.) Conversely, $1,000 today would only get you $39.30 in 1898.