Does Route 66 have the wrong sponsor?

Kicks_1Riding on U.S. Route 50 through the abandoned mining towns of Nevada, you immediately understand how “the loneliest highway in America” got its romantic reputation. For starters, the nickname is probably true. It’s not unusual to go 10 or 15 minutes without seeing another car, even in peak hours of the day. But more cheerfully, the “loneliest” label is not sponsored by a depression clinic or a dating service. So, as uplifting as it may be to see a new campaign for a different road, Route 66—with the theme “Kicks,” based on the Nat King Cole hit, replete with highway-sign mascot and special events—it’s a little dismaying to see it sponsored by the grocery chain Stater Brothers. We’d feel differently about a Burma-Shave sponsorship, because of its history and contribution to advertising history. From 1925 to 1963, Allen Odell’s sequential billboards kept roadmasters entertained, inspiring such followers as Stuckey’s I-95 billboards. One classic read, “Shaving brushes/You’ll soon see ‘em/On a shelf/In some museum/Burma-Shave.” Of course, it’s the billboards that have wound up in various museums, including one that offer this ditty, worthy of Notre Dame stadium announcer Tim McCarthy: “Drinking drivers/Enhance their/Chance/To highball home/In an ambulance/Burma-Shave.”

—Posted by Gregory Solman