Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chevy Centennial Part 2: Chevrolet's Bewitching Bonanza

The presenting sponsorship is not a new concept. It dates back to the days of radio, when a program would have a single sponsor. Often the sponsor would be mentioned in the name of the program itself. The idea translated itself into television smoothly into the early fifties, and created a new opportunity for advertising called the "Roll-In".

The idea was simple- create a commercial that the program flows into seamlessly. The set, the actors in costume, all was continous. Generally the characters remained in character. "I Love Lucy" was a pioneer in this arena, with the Ricardos and the Mertzes seamlessly breaking into praise of Philip Morris and Hotpoint products.

Chevrolet was particularly adept that this as well. They broke into Prime Time Television with the Dinah Shore Chevy Show in 1953, and not only did Dinah share billing with Chevy, she also sang the Chevy jingle each week and appeared in the commercials as well.

By the early sixties, the concept was changing. The sponsorship tended to be shared by two or three different advertisers, so their name no longer appeared in the show's title. The concept of the rerun had also complicated the whole naming issue, but the roll-in advertising was alive and well. Also, some advertisers were beginning to sponsor several programs, so rather than "own" one program they became affiliated with several.

Chevrolet took an extremely prominent role in Bewitched- in addition to being one of the presenting sponsors (along with Quaker Oats,) Chevrolet furnished cars for the program and utilized its cast in roll-in commercials. You will note that there were different animated opens and closes for Bewitched that rotated weekly and bore the logo of that week's presenting sponsor.

But I've never seen anything quite like the spectacular Chevrolet created to launch their 1965 line up- they created a Super Commerical that blended the casts of three different Chevy-sponsored programs appearing together in a five minute announcement commercial. Bonanza, the Man from U.N.C.L.E and Bewitched were all Chevrolet sponsored shows and remarkably all took part in an unforgettable commercial.

The spot was called "Chevrolet's Bewitching Bonanza" and aired on Sunday, September 27, 1964 at the conclusion of that week's Bonanza. It opens on the set of Bonanza with Lorne Greene introducing Pernell Roberts as the latter drives a red Corvette onto the Bonanza set. Then Robert Vaughan appears along with a Corvair,and then the cast of Bewitched pop in- literally- ALL on the Bonanza set of Virginia City.

It is literally unheard of in advertising to mix the cast of the three shows in one five minute commercial and speaks to the emerging power of the television advertiser.

In this case, it is notable that all the actors use their real names versus their characters' names, but there is no mistaking the setting or the fact that they are all presented in character. Pernell Roberts for Corvette, Robert Vaughan for Corvair, Elizabeth Montgomery for Chevelle, Dan Blocker paired with Agnes Moorehead to introduce the Chevy II, and a young Michael Landon unveiling the full sized Chevrolet Impala Sport Coupe. And the parade at the end of new Chevrolets through Virginia City is not to be missed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Chevrolet's Bewitching Bonanza, presented by Chevrolet and your Chevrolet dealer:


  1. fantastic commercial and fantastic classic TV shows. GM's full sized cars of 1965 were a highpoint of Mitchell's career. Those Impala coupes still blow me away, especially in Lilac metallic, lol. Their triple taillights coming out of the trunk, are a design for the ages. Those TV stars will never lose their brightness for me either. thanks for finding this!

  2. I understood this was a dealer promotion film...otherwise, Chevrolet had some real muscle in getting NBC to accept something that even indirectly promoted the ABC-aired BEWITCHED.

  3. Nope, not a dealer promotion film. It was, in fact, an extraordinary prime time broadcast commercial on Sept. 27, 1964 on ABC and precisely as described in the post.