It's Monday evening in Oklahoma City, and you're enjoying a break by watching the string of half-hour situation comedies on the local CBS affiliate, KWTW-9.
Car dealers who want to reach you will have a tough time.
"You'll see 10 to 13 car commercials in a typical 30-minute space, so you have to do something different to break through the clutter," says Chad Stalcup, head of the in-house media arm for Fowler Holding Co. (Honda-Toyota-Mitsubishi-Jeep) of Norman, Okla.
To boost its market identity, the company started a "Follow Me to Fowler" awareness campaign that uses a catchy jingle and down-home humor.
In the "Pied Piper" spots, Stalcup's TV persona enters a mock nudist colony, rides a hot air balloon over Interstate 35 and marches with the Tecumseh High School Band - all to get people to follow him to Fowler.
Fowler's marketing costs rose 25 percent to $2.28 million, but dealer Mike Fowler says viewer response was both strong and immediate.
A catchy jingle seemed like a natural for Chicago-area dealer Roland Gartner.
Gartner, who handles Buick, Saab and Hyundai, bypassed the Windy City marketing traffic jam by hooking up with an agency to produce ads with name recognition. When the agency suggested adding a musical jingle, Gartner's niece, a professional recording artist, sings.
The final step was to accelerate his ad budget. "If you have a jewel, you have to back it with advertising dollars," he explains.
Marketing campaigns can get startling results without jingles or even TV commercials.
Just ask dealer Arthur Wolpert, who handles Toyota, Ford and Dodge in Worcester, Mass.
Wolpert offers free tires for life to customers who buy a new vehicle from one of his stores. His dealerships have switched their advertising mix to emphasize print and Internet after beginning the promotion last fall.
To qualify, customers must follow recommended service requirements. As a result, service absorption has risenfrom 70 percent to about 85 percent. "We think it's helping us close deals," Wolpert says. "People ask about it all the time."
The average dealership print ad is loaded with vehicles and numbers. Gallery Automotive Group decided to do things differently when it began establishing a brand identity for its five Boston-area dealerships.
To distinguish itself, Gallery and its ad agency developed a campaign around a “gallery” theme, placing frames around the cars and incorporating an easel in a new logo.
“All of our communication makes use of white space. If you take a look at a lot of other dealership advertising, it’s packed with vehicle pictures, copy, graphics and fine print,” says Ken Bourne, a dealership manager who handles the group’s advertising.
Not only is each ad easy to read, he says, but “customers understand it; they don’t feel like they’re being fooled.”