A trip down memory lane: Marketing the new Interstate Highway System

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This 30-minute advocacy film brings us to another era, the late 1950s, when color television was an occasional treat for very rich people (in certain markets) and “freeways” were a brand new thing, unless you lived in a few places like southern California.

The then-new Interstate Highway System reflected an extreme infrastructure project — and this film, representing the interests of the contractors and engineers building the highways — effectively demonstrates how economic advocacy occurred in the days before personal video, the Internet, and social media. The arguments for and against the highway project will seem quite familiar to anyone who has experienced a development NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) battle. Of course, the film takes a “for” stand — and demonstrates (through actors portraying themselves as ordinary people) how the NIMBY arguments were wrong.

(Comments below the video — including from some people with first-hand experience of the initial Interstate build — reveal that, as is often the case, both sides are “right” — the highway system caused havoc and harm and yet, in some cases, the detractors who won a re-routing away from their community won the battle but lost the economic war.)

Times have changed. I cannot say how much this film cost to produce, but it couldn’t have been inexpensive. In the current environment, messaging and production costs have declined incredibly, but the offset is there is so much noise and so many voices available to be heard, that it is extremely hard to stand out from the crowd, unless you are very clear and focus on a compact market niche.

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