He's back. Joe Isuzu, the lying car salesman played by actor David Leisure, returned as Isuzu's factory spokesman last month after an 11-year hiatus. But Joe isn't lying anymore, and his character won't overshadow the Isuzu brand as he did in the late 1980s, says Duke Hale, COO of American Isuzu's SUV Division.
'The vehicle will be the star, Joe will be the spokesperson,' Hale said. 'We don't have the budget of GM or Ford or Toyota. We've got to be smarter and more creative.'
Look for Joe in Isuzu's national and dealer TV spots, plus dealer collateral materials. He'll also have a presence on Isuzu's Web site and some radio spots. Automotive Marketer Contributing Editor Laura Clark Geist caught up with Leisure last month at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Las Vegas.
I'm in the back seat of an Axiom with Joe Isuzu. So are you going to lie to me like all the other guys in the back seat?
How many back seats have you been in? (laughter)
When did Isuzu approach you about coming back to be its spokesman?
About three weeks ago. I sat on the information because I didn't think it was real. I didn't want to jinx it because I was so excited to be back with Isuzu again. They've done an amazing job in getting this campaign going in three weeks.
What kind of change have you seen in the corporation in 11 years?
Before, they didn't really have a profile of being a community outreach organization. They have that now. They want to continue, and I'm really excited about that because I've been doing a lot of charity work in the last five years. They have a wonderful product. Now they have a vehicle - no pun intended - of getting it out there.
How has the campaign changed from 11 years ago?
We've only shot two spots, so we're still trying to find our footing with this. We are going to concentrate on product quality, and we're also going to talk about the good aspects of the product a little bit more. Joe Isuzu is still going to have his edge and do his thing. I don't think he's going to be lying as much as he used to be. He is still going to be funny.
Are you glad to have a new persona?
Yeah, we've all kind of grown. I'm not a kid anymore. We've already done (the lying) thing before, and we've run the gamut with it. Now we are going to broaden Joe's horizons and give him more latitude.
What have you been driving the last couple of years?
A black car. (He's not lying.)