Monday, October 4, 2010

Safety Slogan Advertising

Contributed by Norm Nyhuis, Trainer, Evergreen Safety Council

Some of us have fond (or perhaps not so fond) memories of road trips, when we were kids. Having travelled by car, numerous times from western Washington State to visit family in Iowa and other parts of the mid-west, I am always surprised, when making a similar trip in recent years, of how much things have changed.

The old US highway system, for example US 10, and even the so called “Mother road of America, US Route 66” are pretty much gone, having been replaced by the Eisenhower Interstate Highway system. I agree with the news reporter Charles Osgood, when he said, “It’s now possible to drive from coast to coast and not see anything!” Granted, it’s not as fast, but I often avoid the interstate highways and choose the more interesting State and County roadways. Driving those roads, I don’t miss driving through the heart of small towns, and perhaps finding that quintessential town café where one can find the best apple, rhubarb or meringue pie ever. The town of Ennis, Montana, the Ennis Café and their fresh strawberry pie is a prime example.

Something else I miss is that long gone road side poetry of the Burma-Shave signs. I was reminded of this when recently, I was given a copy of “The Verse by the side of the Road” by Frank Rowsome. In this little tome, Mr. Rowsome gives the history of one of the most cost effective advertising campaigns ever. The original rhymes-on-signs was the idea of Allen Odell, whose family business in brushless shaving cream needed some kind of identity to make people notice their product. Starting in 1925, with a few hand painted signs along Minnesota Highway 65, to over 7000 sets of signs in 43 states by time they were discontinued in 1963, the Burma-Shave signs did one thing that advertisers still are trying to do, they made everyone who read them, smile.

So what does this little stroll down memory lane have to do with safety? While most of the examples took a humorous poke at the art of advertising and promoted their product, a large number of the Burma-Shave signs dealt with the perils of highway safety. Apparently the problems we see on the roadways of today, were present “way back then”, too. Here are a few examples. The first is from 1933.

Free Offer! Free Offer! / Rip a fender / From your car? / Mail it in / For a half-pound jar!

Apparently the problem of distracted driving was noticed back then as driver’s attention was diverted by the catchy rhymes.

Keep well / To the right / of the oncoming car / get your close shaves / from our half-pound jar!

The following is from 1937.

Drive / With care / Be Alive / When you arrive.

A universal theme that is still applicable today.

Don’t take / That curve / At sixty per / we’d hate to lose / A customer!

Hardly a driver / Is now alive / Who passed / On hills / At 65!

The previous two, address a still current problem of impatient driving.

If you dislike / Big traffic fines / slow down / Till you / Can read these signs.

Carless driving / Soon we hope / Will go / The way / Of brush and soap.

These last two are from 1940 . . . .

You can’t reach 80 / Hale and hearty / By driving 80 / Home from / The party.

Give clear signals / To those behind / They don’t know / What’s on your mind.

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