The celebrity as spokesperson for a corporation, product, or organization is not a new or novel concept, and dates as far back as the concept of advertising itself. When a spokesperson is a celebrity, the average consumer will say “hey, if (insert famous name here) uses this product, or shops at this store, or supports this cause or organization, then I should too.” The advertising is effective, and well, business! Appealing to the very heart of the consumer is what drives great advertising and wins over their business.
In 1977 and 1978, actor John Wayne served as the celebrity spokesman for Great Western Savings, filming several commercials for them. In commemoration of their 100th year of being part of the West, Great Western aired the commercials as a salute to their Centennial.
In the grand tradition of appealing to the consumers’ loyalty, I proudly present those commercials, featuring John Wayne tugging at your heartstrings and appealing to your emotions. Don’t take my carefully crafted words for it…just watch. And be awed.
Each advertisement was filmed in 1977 and 1978, with the most famous commercial for Great Western involved the filming of Wayne in full cowboy garb, while standing in the Sequoia National Forest in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California. The advertisement featuring the two sleeping children were Wayne’s youngest son and daughter, John Ethan Wayne and Marisa Wayne, who were fifteen and eleven years old, respectively.
Great Western Savings was acquired by Washington Mutual, and was effectively defunct as of July 1,1997. It was headquartered in Chatsworth, California, and a full-sized bronze statue of Wayne on a horse still stands at the site of Great Western’s former Beverly Hills branch, on the corners of 8484 Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevards.
It’s like Rodin’s The Thinker, but on a horse.
Wayne passed away on June 11, 1979 from stomach cancer, but these advertisements remain not only a symbol of times gone by (and yes, how things change), but also that while we (and various aspects of our lives) come and go, legends live on. And what better way to celebrate a long-standing institution of the west than with a long-standing icon of that part of the country’s biggest industry?
And there you have it, a look at advertising that appeals to our hearts and loyalty, while appealing to our admiration of “celebrity as spokesperson.” And I dare you not to watch John Wayne exit on a horse and not get all the feels.
Allison is the collector of commercials – she boasts a large collection of commercials from the 1940s tothe 2000s, and she combs through her archives to hand pick only the best. If you like her work here, please visit her at her home on the interwebs, Allison’s Written Words.
She’s not above admitting she tears up over these commercials.