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Auto Advertising – 30-Second Ad Challenge

Given the chance, what would each and every employee of your organization say in a thirty-second advertisement? My friend Roy, General Manager of an import dealership in the southwest recently found out in a team advertising challenge. Which employee could give the best ‘sales pitch’ for the dealership in thirty seconds? Roy got the idea from Lee-Ann who has been working in the dealership office for the past 10 years since she graduated from high school. Seems that one day, the dealership’s advertising people were showing off a proposed ad campaign. After the presentation, Roy asked for comments from some of the employees. Mustering her courage, Lee-Ann raised her hand to offer criticism: “That could be any dealership in America,” she said. “It really doesn’t make me want to buy a car here!” ‘Rail’, the Assistant Used Car Manager (nicknamed Rail because he really is as skinny as a rail) seconded Lee-Ann’s notion. “I thought the same thing. You could just change the name at the end and that ad could be for any dealership in our market,” he said.

Roy, not at all pleased with the turn of events, asked Lee-Ann if she thought she could do any better. “You’re darn right I can!” she replied. And with that she launched into a spontaneous ad-lib on the merits of doing business with the dealership. Here is what she said:

“I’ve been working at this dealership since I graduated from high school. I’ve come to know every member of our team on a personal level and I can tell you there isn’t a better place in this city to buy a car. The owner is honest. The managers treat people great and people love coming to work here. If you’ve got a problem, you best believe we’ll take care of you because we don’t want you out on the street saying bad things about us. You know me. I’ve lived here all my life. Do you think I would say something like this if I didn’t mean it with all my heart? Come buy a car from us and get treated the way you want to be treated. And be sure to tell Moe or Rail that Lee-Ann sent you in.”

So convincing, so sincere, the room erupted in applause and Rail suggested Lee-Ann become the dealership spokesperson. It was then that Roy decided to hold a dealership contest to see if other employees might have ideas on the advertising message of the dealership. At a general employee meeting held in the showroom, Roy asked Lee-Ann to deliver her advertising message. Jose, a parts man for the dealership for the past 4 years asked if he could voice the message in Spanish. And he did just that, explaining that he had sent 3 of his friends in to buy a car at the dealership and every one of them was treated like family. “You don’t send your friends to buy a car if you don’t think they’ll be treated well, and they were,” added Jose.

Over the next 30 days, more than 20 of the dealership’s 68 employees submitted ideas for the best advertising message. Entries were whittled down to the 5 best ideas and the dealership videotaped each employee delivering his or her message for a final presentation. Then, the advertising agency suggested that the dealership put all 5 commercials on the dealership’s website and ask customers to vote for their favorite commercial. What started as a grass-roots idea session quickly grew into a viral campaign fueled by friends, family and anyone stopping by the website. Roy decided to add fuel to the flames by offering the winning employee-created ad a $1000 cash prize, plus the pride of having the ad run on broadcast and cable television spots. The dealership also promoted the internal contest via dealership ads on radio, television and in the newspaper. The campaign brought thousands of new visitors to the dealership website, and the winning employee ad was chosen with more than 3500 votes.

Here are some surprising facts from the contest:

  • The winning ad was written and voiced by one of the newest employees at the dealership. Jay, an ASE tech, had only been with the dealership for 3 months.
  • The dealership hired 4 new employees (2 salespeople) directly as the result of the contest.
  • The dealership enjoyed a 5% increase in sales over the same period of the previous year. That may not sound like much, but consider that the dealership’s two competitors with the same franchise were off 12% and 15% respectively. More importantly, new-vehicle grosses increased.
  • There is genuine interest by employees in repeating the contest and campaign, and several have already submitted home-made videos of their ideas.

What did the copy on the winning employee ad look like?

“My name is Jay Whittier. I don’t know much about selling cars but I think our prices are pretty low. The reason I’d say you should buy a car here is we’re going to take care of you for the long haul. I’ve seen our service manager fight for customers on warranty repairs. We’ve also fixed a lot of cars that other places have screwed up. Even if you don’t buy your car here come see us if you have a problem. This is a good place to work. And a good place to buy or service a car. Thanks.”

The past few years have been tough for a lot of dealerships, yet many dealerships are beginning to realize the truth of Vince Lombardi’s sayings. Such as:


“Unless a man believes in himself, makes a total commitment to his career and puts everything he has into it – his mind, his body and his heart, what is life worth to him? If I were a salesman, I would make this commitment to my company, to the product, and most of all, to myself.”

By bringing every employee into the advertising fold and helping them define and perfect your marketing message, you help each employee make that total commitment and move beyond just a mere job to a career. Most of your employees love what they do and love where they work. They want you to succeed because they want to succeed, too. They love being part of a winning team.

Here’s another great quote from Vince Lombardi:


“Confidence is contagious and so is lack of confidence. A customer will recognize both.”

Knowing and believing the reasons your customers should do business with your team is the single greatest confidence builder you can instill in your employees. Helping them define their own ‘elevator pitch’ energizes and boosts their confidence levels.

Finally, realize there is incredible power in true team effort. No one knows your company’s strengths better than your employees. Like the Japanese proverb says…


“None of us is smarter than all of us!”

Give your team the Thirty-Second Ad Challenge. Let me know how it works for you!

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