Celebrity Endorsements: Ed Sullivan and Mercury

This article kicks off a new series of posts that will feature celebrities and their endorsements of automobiles.  We begin with Ed Sullivan and Mercury.

Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town, later known as The Ed Sullivan Show, entertained the American public for over 20 years. Televising stand-up comedians, celebrity appearances, and musical talent, Sullivan and his extremely talented permanent cast introduced America to the rising stars of the era. His show was known to be the “showcase for top name talent” and featured more than just the biggest names in the entertainment industry.

Featuring the premiere performances of Elvis, the Beatles, and Rodney Dangerfield, just to name a few, The Ed Sullivan Show also advertised products to the American public. In today’s variety shows, commercials are a common and integral part of the show. This concept was no different for Sullivan. He introduced America to top-name talents while also introducing advertisements for top-name products, which included Mercury automobiles, a rising star in its own industry.

During the show, Sullivan would talk about Mercury for a one minute spot advertising its comfort and safety features. To complement the live commercial spots, Mercury published trade catalogs featuring both Sullivan and his Mercury cruising around New York City. One of the trade catalogs also featured him visiting the factory where Mercury automobiles were manufactured. These further connected the advertising campaign featuring Sullivan and Mercury.

Cover of a catalog featuring Ed Sullivan as Mercury's celebrity spokesman.

When The Toast of the Town, celebrated its 7th anniversary, Mercury offered deals on its cars, further cementing the two brands together. According to the publication, Sullivan says of Mercury, “These new Mercurys are the best yet. I personally talked to the workmen who make them, and they told me – and showed me why – no car is better made than Mercury.” Sullivan goes on to declare that it pays to own a Mercury because he drives one himself.

As a result, Mercury was placed among a league of top stars featured on the show. Through its association with such prominent celebrities, Mercury gained notoriety as a top automobile brand. Mercury gained fame not only as an affordable and reliable automobile, but as one used by celebrities, such as Sullivan. By showing Sullivan driving his Mercury, it demonstrated that Mercury could cross economic boundaries because it was affordable to most, but looked like the upscale automobiles bought by movie and television stars.

Sources:
Ed Sullivan Says : “Take it From Me– the Big Move is to Mercury,” 1954
“History of the Ed Sullivan.” The Official Ed Sullivan Site. http://www.edsullivan.com/ (accessed February 6, 2012).

Also, don’t forget to check out the post from earlier in the week about the Society of Automotive Historian’s conference to provide comments on what you want to know about the Vinson Collection!

Robin Valencia is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

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