CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sonic Automotive Inc. is more than tripling its advertising outlays here in the fourth quarter as it introduces its customer experience initiative.
The campaign includes TV spots, billboards, event marketing and social media efforts and carries the tag line, "Everything you hate about car buying is history."
"That's the call to action in this advertising," said Jeff Dyke, Sonic executive vice president of operations. "We've made it easier."
Dyke declined to reveal the spend but described it as significant. It's more than three times the company's typical quarterly outlay for its five stores in the Charlotte market, he said.
The first TV commercial began running in early October. It shows the stereotypical car salesman on a lot with a blue inflatable gorilla -- but then reveals that the scene is behind glass in a museum because the old approach no longer exists. A second commercial is slated to begin this month.
The campaign will feature two social media efforts. In the first, starting this week and dubbed Cartifacts, Sonic is challenging customers to find relics of the old-school dealership -- that inflatable blue gorilla or a dicker-and-deal commercial, for instance -- and send pictures or video to be registered to win a free car.
In the second effort, starting later in the quarter, Dyke said, Sonic will set up a "Candid Camera"-type hot dog stand at Charlotte Motor Speedway and try to negotiate the price of hot dogs with customers wanting to buy.
After the joke is revealed, the customer will get a free hot dog, and Sonic aims to get some fun video it can post on Facebook.
"We're hoping those things will go viral," Dyke said. "And we'll use our customer base to try to make that happen."