Rolls-Royce doesn’t advertise much. Sure, the legendary British ultra-luxury-car builder often sponsors special events, but you rarely see Rolls print or TV ads, and you never see digital promotions.
About ten years ago, I had the honor of joining the then head of Rolls-Royce North America for breakfast. During the discussion, which was attended by eight or so local auto writers, our host noted that Rolls maintains a list of every potential customer on the planet. I got the sense that the number of “consumers” willing and able to spend more than $350,000 on their next new car is relatively small.
So, instead of advertising in the conventional sense, Rolls-Royce prefers to host parties, premieres, and other high-end events, which enables the company to engage its potential clients in the flesh, so to speak.
This has not always been the case, of course. Rolls-Royce cars were not always as expensive as they are today—relatively speaking.
Beginning in the late Fifties, and into the early Sixties, Rolls-Royce ran a good number of magazine print ads, some of which were surprisingly feature- and value-oriented—somewhat odd for a luxury brand.
It seems likely that, after years of positioning the brand as rare and aristocratic, the folks at Rolls realized that at least some of its potential customers were being lured away by the more exciting and more driver-oriented offerings from the likes of Aston-Martin, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz. It was becoming uncool—at least to some folks—to be chauffeured around in a rolling, chrome-laden tribute to Victorian inheritance.
1959 Rolls-Royce Ad
Consider these points as numbered and presented in the ad featured here:
An enthusiast car-magazine review is quoted in point number one. Earlier Rolls ads would never have cited so practical a source.
In point two, the ad boasts of the steps taken to ensure product reliability. One might expect to read similar claims in a Ford advertisement.
In points three and four, Rolls lays bare its desire that its cars be considered driver’s cars.
In point six, the Rolls-Royce warranty is covered… a strangely practical point for an ultra-luxury vehicle.
In point seven, we learn about the car’s performance. A legendary luxury-car builder lowering itself to be measured by so common a metric as top speed.
This is interesting: In point eight, we learn that Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars are essentially identical. This admission would seem designed to allow Rolls to bask—at least somewhat—in the glow of Bentley’s storied victories on the race track. Again, this ad is looking to catch the attention of driving enthusiasts.
And, in point nine… a price! Seems a Rolls-Royce, though very expensive, may not be as unobtainable as some potential buyers might have thought. That price—$13,995—is still lofty; inflation-adjusted, the car pictured comes to about $125,000. That’s much less than a modern-era Rolls, but still considerably more than a period Aston Martin or Mercedes-Benz.
A quick survey of classic car ads indicates that Rolls-Royce would return to print advertising for brief periods in the Seventies and Eighties, though neither campaign included ads as packed with practical details or enthusiast information as this classic.
Rolls-Royce Ad Gallery
(click below for enlarged images)