By on April 20, 2012

After creating today’s Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo Junkyard Find, it becomes my duty to share one of the most brain-scrambling examples of the “What Could GM Have Been Thinking?” genre of car commercials. Yes, it’s a version of Harry Belafonte‘s “Banana Boat Song,” with “Tro-FE-oh” replacing the famous “DAY-oh,” and sung by Belafonte’s offspring.

Let’s study the new lyrics:

It’s a new generation and we want a new Olds.
Sequential port fuel injection, anti-lock brakes,
(?) come and they want a new Olds.
Visual Information Center, handles great.
This Oldsmobile is not our father’s,
New generation for the sons and daughters.
This is the new generation of Oldsmobile.

It’s hard to figure out what GM had in mind here. If the idea was to pitch the Troféo to younger buyers considering a Detroit alternative to European marques, why use a song that was a hit in 1956? If the idea was to woo Oldmobile’s traditional purchaser demographic (i.e., grumpy octogenarians in the Upper Midwest), why use a song by a well-known Civil Rights-era activist and all-around opponent of American foreign policy, who was loathed like Satan by 99 and many more nines percent of grumpy Midwestern octogenarians? Hey, maybe they’ll buy a Reatta!

Let’s check out another Olds ad from the same era featuring equally an equally C-list celebrity. Quick, someone put that marque out of its misery!

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23 Comments on “Harry Belafonte’s Kids Sing Olds Troféo-ized Version of Dad’s Big Hit, Civilization Collapses...”

  • avatar

    These were part of an ad campaign that featured celebrities and their offspring. Other commercials in this series featured Priscilla and Lisa Presley (the pre-facelift Priscilla), Ringo Starr and his daughter, Lee, and William Shatner and his daugther, Melanie.

    The theme was “the New Generation of Olds,” and the goal was to show that Oldsmobile made cars that appealed to younger buyers. It obviously didn’t work.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember the “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile” tag. I give them some credit for trying to go after a younger market and shrug off their stodgy image, but hiring the offspring of has-beens who their target audience probably never heard of didn’t work out so well.

    • 0 avatar

      Viewed through that explanation, it makes sense.

      Wait. No it doesn’t.

      Old “That’s Familiar” stars would appeal to the very people they were trying to _not_ market to. Including their offspring isn’t the same as marketing _to_ the offspring of the old folks.

      Pontiac’s contemporary ads were full of lies (they did not build excitement), but at least they captured the neon, hair gel and leather appropriate for the era.

      I was going to write something to the effect “what they really should’ve done for Olds…” but I honestly can’t think of a good answer other than “kill it 10 years sooner than they did”.

  • avatar

    I remember that commercial when I was very young. My father had an ’87 Trofeo; loved it.

  • avatar

    “Silhouette: the Cadillac of Mini Vans”

    The product placement in “Get Shorty” was pretty amusing though.

  • avatar

    Well to be fair, the kids’ singer Rafi did a popular [and quite good] version of Day-O in the 1980s that my young kids (and we) loved. The song was also popularized again in the movie Beetlejuice. So they maybe they were not quite as anachronistic as it seemed :)

    • 0 avatar

      Two things I remember from back when I was a kid and this commercial first came on the air.

      1. That ‘Day-O’ was a popular song at that time.

      2. Having absolutely no clue who Harry Belefonte was or that the song was originally a hit in 1956 (In fact, until I read this article I’d always assumed the song originally came out in the 80’s)

      • 0 avatar


        I remember this song on the “BeetleJuice” movie and my sister choreographed a dance routine to the song for the talent show a few years later. We all called it “the banana song.”

  • avatar

    OK, well the song is just a little bit worse than The Bon Marche’s “one day only” sale version, which was much more annoying because they used it for what seemed like a decade or more.

    GM really did try, you have to at least give them that . . .

    I was working at Delco Electronics during the time that this car was designed, and the future (of in-car electronics) really did look bright. I remember working one of those “visual information displays” and you could drill down in the menus and get quite a bit of detailed engine and system information which was unheard of at the time – kind of like driving around with an in-car scantool.

    And yes, the issue of it being hard to operate while driving did come up at the time (I seem to recall that some screens were disabled while the car was in gear). Ergonomics didn’t become a heavy focus until years later (think of the oval Taurus combined radio/HVAC controls – that was supposed to be the ergonomic masterpiece with all of the most-used controls located closest to the driver).

  • avatar

    Oh look, it did have the VIC!

    What many might not remember is the popularity of this song after being featured in the smash hit film Beetlejuice a year or two prior. “Daaayo!” was edgy and hip at the time.

  • avatar

    The commercial with Ringo was definitely the best.

    Hamming it up in some kind of fab-four getaway from crazed fans, he winds up in the Olds with his daughter driving, he looks about the cabin and says with Liverpudlian surprise and indignation, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile!”

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t remember seeing any of them, which was probably due to having the television off most of the time.

      Youtube had it –

      So twenty years late, I get to appreciate some of the “marketing genius” served up by General Motors.

  • avatar

    So were they mocking the Olds minivan’s spaceship looks?

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    About that time Country Music comedian Ray Stevens decided to have a little fun with the new tagline.

    This IS Your Daddy’s Oldsmobile

  • avatar

    All of us are embarrassed by things we did 20 years ago but you got a right to earn a living too.

    How about that Olds dustbuster minivan ad with the wimpy kid from “The Wonder Years?”

  • avatar

    Love the Trofeo ad! I’ve been looking for it for years.

  • avatar

    Worst ad ever. And they made a point to incorporate “this isn’t your fathers Oldsmobile” to remind young customers why they should not consider this car.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course.

      If you were the kind of young person who was at all interested in Oldsmobile it was precisely because you wanted ‘A cool car, just like Dad’s.” So the ‘New Olds’ was obviously not for you. If you were one of those kids who hated their fathers (like the baby-boomers in the marketing department did) you’d see right through ‘the pandering bourgeois advertising’ and still give ‘New Olds’ a miss.

      It’s this kind of disrespect for what came before that is exactly why I will never ever own a new Cadillac.

      Sure, ‘Cadillac Style’ was getting old and stale before the new ‘Art and Science’ design philosophy came about, but the Art and Science makes all the cars look like they’re made out of Trapezoids… I could have forgiven that, if not for the fact that the first ads advertising it didn’t compare the new ‘Art and Science’ to the ‘Old and Busted’ styling of the previous generation.. but the styling of the classic 1950’s Caddys, which were IMO some of THE handsomest cars ever designed.

  • avatar

    That is right, GM didn’t do anything wrong today, so let’s drag out some old commercial from the 70-80’s so we can make fun of GM.

    Let’s see and hear the Champagne Edition VW commercials from the 70’s with the dancing girls and champagne colored balloons or the nail polish paint colors that they tried for a while to attract female buyers.

    It astounds me how much you can dig up from GM’s past, but nary a peep about VW (and they have such an interesting past (SS)).

  • avatar

    GM expected all the drivers of older 70’s era ‘disco coupes’ to trade in for W, N, and E bodies, as if they were still desired. If it weren’t for the full sized trucks/SUV’s, GM wuld have goen udner in 1992.

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