Changing Lanes: A Reanimation of Shell Oil’s Carol Lane Public Deposited

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  • February 24, 2022
Creator
  • Dollman, Melissa Suzanne
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of American Studies
Abstract
  • This digital dissertation, “Changing Lanes: A Reanimation of Shell Oil’s Carol Lane,” is a case study of a mid-20th-century public relations (PR) program, sponsored by Shell Oil and Shell Canada, that targeted American and Canadian women motorists. From 1947 to 1974, Carol Lane was Women’s Travel Director for Shell Oil Company and the face and voice of the program. Her role was to extol to her audiences of primarily women the joys of touring the country by car safely with family, friends, or alone. She traveled the country lecturing on travel tips for safe, economical, entertaining, and even educational, vacations by automobile. Her primary audiences were women’s clubs, before whom she presented live as an invited guest; and while visiting their cities or towns, she appeared on their local radio and television stations. While on the road, Lane also conducted market research, collecting travel tips from women along the way. She even rewarded clubwomen with a Carol Lane Award for initiating successful traffic safety programs in their communities, and entertained the wives of Shell gas station owners at grand luncheons. The Carol Lane program’s outreach activities were all intended to indirectly enhance Shell’s corporate image as one that was forward-thinking enough to hire a woman for such a high-profile position and honor women as opinion leaders in their respective communities. Carol Lane, however, was what is called a “living trademark,” or a fictional composite of over twenty women (plus dozens more radio-only versions) who portrayed Lane simultaneously while using the pseudonym. This dissertation examines this mainly twentieth-century marketing phenomenon, and exposes an entire network of Lane performers and associated personnel who supported the program, as well as her audiences, her circle of fellow PR living trademarks, spokespeople, and columnists. Note: This text-only PDF version of the dissertation is submitted here for copyright purposes. For the fully digital dissertation project, please see https://carollaneproject.com/. See also the supplemental .MP4, and .CSV files. A WARC file is available in the Carolina Digital Repository (https://doi.org/10.17615/jahb-6138).
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Advisor
  • Herman, Bernard L.
  • Holland, Sharon P.
  • Hogan, Wesley
  • Anderson, Daniel
  • Shaw, Ryan
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2021
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