Three customers walk into a Chevrolet showroom in southeastern Tennessee. They want to purchase different types of vehicles with different options. But they have one thing in common: The same ad influenced their visit. The advertising wasn't the traditional radio or TV spot but a commercial talk-radio show.
Dealer Lennie Lawson, 47, uses the show to reach potential customers. In 1999 Lawson, owner and general manager of Lawson Chevrolet in Greeneville, Tenn., transformed the dealership's 30-second radio spot into a weekly 30-minute talk show.
Lawson's local show, "Let's talk cars," on WJCW-AM 910, doesn't just air advertising about Lawson Chevrolet and Lawson Mountain Mazda-Mitsubishi, his family's neighboring dealership in Greeneville. Lawson, with the help of his co-host, former CNN correspondent John Quaintance, provides listeners with information on how cars work; repair tips; car reviews, even on products the family doesn't sell; and other topics, such as unethical dealership practices. The show even talks about how the franchise system works.
The popularity of "Let's talk cars," which airs from 9 to 9:30 a.m. on Thursdays, has grown since it began four years ago. Now with 50,000 listeners, it is the No. 1 commercial talk show of the 10 aired on AM 910, and the station advertises it on billboards.
"One of the things that makes the show is that it is not just self-serving," says Dave Church, a WJCW account executive who handles the show. "It has greatly earned the listeners' trust."