By Ed Thompson

I love cigars. Not a particularly profound statement though a statement of profound truth. Paradoxes. You gotta love ‘em. How can an exclamation such as, “I love cigars,” not be a profound statement yet contain a profound truth? Simple. Examine the emotion behind exclamation.

I love cigars. I love to buy them. I love to light them. I love to smell them. I love to talk about them, I love to read about them, I love to write about them, but most of all, I love to smoke them. Write and produce a radio commercial that talks about a cigar store that has twenty years of service with a friendly, knowledgeable staff, and I will IGNORE you.

Tell me a story about the little girl who grew up in Miami’s Little Havana watching a master cigar maker work his magic. Tell me how the little girl begged the master to show her how to make cigars. Tell me how she grew up and opened her own cigar store where she sells cigars, which she has rolled with her own hands. Better yet, have her tell the story and I will listen in rapt attention. The passion, the love, the emotional investment a listener has in a certain product or service determines whether he or she will listen to a commercial or just hear it.

A certain car dealer had a problem. He’d just purchased a dealership that had fallen afoul of the customer base. Bad sellers, bad service, and bad location had caused many bad feelings toward the dealership that carried over even when the new owner took over. What was to be done? During my initial conversation with the new owner I asked if a name change was out of the question. Bold question from a mere radio station copywriter, but there’s a funny thing about bad times, they make people consider bold questions, no matter who asks them. He considered the suggestion but decided against it allowing my opening for him to consider my next suggestion.

Now car dealers are different than most advertisers. They rarely deal with direct buys. Most car dealers with which I have worked have agencies that do the creative heavy lifting. And when I say “creative” I mean that only slightly less than facetiously. Most car dealer ads are yelling and screaming, “save like never before” or other cliché crap that does anything but resemble creative. Is it any wonder why they enjoy such a reputation only slightly above that of politicians?

I suggested to Mr. Car Dealer to do something that is never associated with car dealers. Be honest. Acknowledge the reputation of the previous owner of the dealership and suggest to their potential customers that he is going to do everything in his power to erase that bad reputation. No yelling. No screaming. No promises about saving like never before.

Here is the first ad that I wrote for him:

Music-Up & under

Voice 1: The old “bait and switch”. A classic sales tactic used by unscrupulous traders who entice you with a ridiculously low price then pressure you into buying something else for a lot more, leaving you feeling like you’ve been scaled, filleted, and left sizzling in a pan. That’ll never happen at Anytown Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep. That’s because Anytown understands that if you’re coming to their dealership, you probably already have a good idea what you want. Does that mean Anytown won’t show you other possible options? No. But what they won’t do is lure you here like a fish and then hook you into something that’s twice the price. If you come to Anytown looking for a Dakota Pick-Up, they won’t pressure you into buying a Ram Fifteen-Hundred. If you want a P-T Crusier, they won’t compel you into buying a Town And Country. Or if you want a Liberty, they won’t twist your arm into buying a Grand Cherokee. Still, why should you trust some anonymous voice who’s obviously been paid to read a script? Well, you don’t need to trust me. Just go to Anytown Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and find out for yourself. Anytown Chrysler Dodge Jeep, just north of I-Eighty in Kearney or online at Anytowncdj-dot-com.

I told Mr. Car Dealer that his new ad would garner attention from potential customers because it wouldn’t “sound” like a car dealer ad. I told him it would dip into the inherent distrust listeners/customers have toward this dealership by acknowledging they had that distrust for a reason. Still, it went farther by saying that they shouldn’t trust what the dealership says, but what they do and they could judge for themselves if his promise had been kept.

Now advertising is only as good as the clients that advertise, so I also told Mr. Car Dealer that he had to live up to what he said he was going to do or his potential customers would see it right away and leave him again. Then, no matter what he said on the air, the air would be all he was talking to.

Mission accomplished? More than a year later, I’m still working with Mr. Car Dealer and not once has he yelled, screamed, or offered savings like never before. What he has done is delivered on every promise he’s ever made.

I have to go now. I have a La Gloria Cubana waiting for me in the humidor in my studio and you know how much I love cigars.