Wrapped in Red, White and Blue

 

NEW YORK TIMES

WRAPPING an American flag around a brand has long been a popular way to peddle products -- to Americans, certainly, and sometimes to citizens of other countries (say, Coca-Cola and Levi's). In this country, no other automobile line -- and few brands of any kind -- have been as successful as Chevrolet with flag-waving pitches.

After years of unmemorable advertising slogans like ''Eye it, try it, buy it,'' the brand struck pay dirt with the theme ''See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet,'' as promulgated through a catchy jingle that became identified with the singer Dinah Shore after she sang it in two Chevy-sponsored television series that ran from 1951 to 1963.

In an era when the sponsors, not the networks, produced shows, Shore's enthusiastic performance helped to persaude a generation of car buyers that buying a Chevy was almost a patriotic duty. Indeed, who could not think that after listening to lyrics like these:

See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet,

America is asking you to call.

Drive your Chevrolet through the U.S.A.,

America is the greatest land of all.

(The jingle got a new lease on life in February, when the cast of ''Glee,'' in a special episode after Super Bowl XLV, sang the song in an elaborate Chevy Cruze commercial.)

Would it be overreaching to suggest that Chevrolet's identification with the American spirit helped it to become, and stay, the No. 1 car brand for so many years? G.M. kept strengthening that connection in subsequent years with ad themes like ''Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet'' (1975, revived in 2006), ''The heartbeat of America'' (1985) and ''An American revolution'' (2004).

Certainly there have been memorable Chevy ads without red, white and blue bunting. The current theme, ''Chevy runs deep,'' is flagless. But some aspects of a campaign to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chevrolet brand take a ''See the U.S.A.'' tack.

For instance, an online video series, ''The Road We're On,'' at roadwereon.chevrolet.com, begins with the virtual unfolding of a road map. The first two episodes tell the story of Bridgeville, Pa., and the family-run Chevrolet dealership that opened there in 1918.

-- STUART ELLIOTT

 
John Mock