Selling the Cat (short)

In 1972, Jaguar didn’t need to convince buyers of the XJ6’s virtues, but their BLMC masters had other ideas. 

(c) hiveminer

Marketing a car like the Jaguar XJ6 shouldn’t have been the most onerous of tasks. Demand for the car was enormous and the biggest problem facing prospective customers was getting hold of one. To some extent, Jaguar dealers were essentially order-takers and fulfilment houses. So while the rationale behind this print ad from the spring of 1972 appears somewhat ill-wrought, it isn’t as confused as the execution itself.

The image shows a gentleman, clearly of means, walking disconsolately away from the Jaguar, which we assume he has just test driven at his (quite immodest) home. The ad-copy makes much of how the XJ6 will spoil you for any other car, yet the prospective customer’s expression speaks more of perplexity than regret, suggesting a degree of ambivalence perhaps?

Has he driven the car, liked it, only to be told he’ll have to wait over a year for delivery? Or has he driven the car, been unimpressed, and is now wondering how he’s going to stretch to that Mercedes S-Class he’s been hearing so much about? And why does the gentleman in the background (the sales representative we assume) appear to be pushing the car? Did it (the thought is almost too terrible to contemplate) ‘fail to proceed’?

Either way, not only does the ad-execution not work, it suggests an element of desperation on the carmaker’s part – a somewhat self-defeating strategy for a car in huge demand. Of course by 1972, BLMC had taken control of Jaguar’s sales and marketing functions and perhaps what this advertisement illustrates above all is the BLMC marketers’ failure to understand, not only the Jaguar brand, but the luxury car market itself.

Later that year, a crippling strike – the longest in Jaguar’s history – crippled production for nearly four months, making this advertisement not only an exercise in disappointment, but even more so, in futility.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

8 thoughts on “Selling the Cat (short)”

  1. Comparing this to the XJ’s launch brochure betrays just how little BL understood of this end of the market.

    Even if we ignore the awkward message of the ad, the photography, typography and layout are all a few rung below Jaguar’s previous standards.

  2. “As the salesman pushes the Jaguar toward the tow truck, the client thinks, ‘If only it had Delco electrics'”.

    1. Have you noticed that men don´t put their hands in the pockets of jackets any more – they either let them hang free or put them in one or both trouser pocket. Prince Charles still uses his jacket pockets like this.

    2. Believe me, pushing a dead XJ is no easy matter. I have experience in this matter to draw upon. Many years ago, I was friendly with a Jaguar-owning neighbour who from time to time purchased the odd basket case for parts. One cold, wet and decidedly inclement Sunday evening, we towed a very dead Series One (manual) XJ from its resting place in some Godforsaken field out in the wilds of Cork. I steered (and braked) the damp and murky Jag, while my neighbour occupied the warmth and conviviality of his workaday Nissan 180 estate. No power assistance, no servo, no wipers. It was a long crawl and not one this Jaguariste recalls with much residual warmth…

  3. I often find these type of vintage print ads funny. It was really of the times to have ambiguous ads where everything is not what it seems: reading from the main text in the ad you’d be forgiven for thinking the Jaguar was such a crap car that it’ll leave you an unhappy man…..until you read the text below. So 70’s !

  4. Richard, you’re right. Men don’t often use their jacket pockets now. I remember JFK was often photographed in that pose.

    1. Those pockets are typically sewn closed. I have a jacket with them open and even a lighter spoils the line of the jacket. What´s happened is that designers have moved towards a more structured look for jackets with the effect being a creasless shell. Back in the 1960s they were looser and baggier items and were really meant for outdoor use.

    2. If they are sewn closed I tend to leave them that way, because I know exactly that I have the tendency to put my hands in all the time – with the result of the pockets looking worn and baggy after some time.

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