Route 66, an advertising icon
Route 66 knew the beginning and the peak of the automobile culture. As a true icon of its time, it even contributed to the creation and development of novel advertising concepts addressed to new travelers in search of scenery and leisure at the end of the war. Indeed, the firs tourists rumbling down Route 66 were to revolutionize everything.
Business growth and birth rates shoot up. Purchasing power, first paid holidays, family trips to Disneyland in California, now accessible by car! Travel is no longer a necessity but sheer pleasure. And the concept is totally innovative!
On the roadsides, all is designed to attract new customers and Route 66 is adorned with gigantic billboards, all-night-on neon lights, murals with innovative and sometimes provocative advertising slogans, oversized objects and characters, known as the "Muffler Men", who carried among other things axes, American flags, and disproportionate hotdogs to ensure the promotion of the related establishment.
There is no limit to the marketers' imagination; the larger, the more visible it is. Competition exacerbates ambitions and panels become monstrous. Some downtowns are but a succession of such panels, now mostly gone and ruined, e.g., the Central Avenue in Albuquerque New Mexico, at the time reputedly the longest street in the world with a record number of establishments in the 1950s, most of which are now closed.
The owner of "Meramec Caverns" had even the idea of buying dozens of barns along Route 66 and painting them in bright colors to draw tourists to its incredible caves - even though these were located dozens of miles away.
All these innovative concepts had one and a single goal: to catch the eye of Route 66’s traveler and - above all - stir the children's curiosity (read: "Route 66, a family icon").
In fact, children were the prime target of these new hyper-visual marketing, with bright and - if appropriate - joyful colors. Throughout the 1950s, the new "baby boomers" generation swept up and down Route 66 and completely messes up its communication codes. Route 66 becomes a bubbling family road. Travelling crowds want to be entertained - getting there is a given now.