McGeorge Toyota is taking a new approach to reach customers with a television ad campaign that launches today.
The Henrico County dealer is eschewing the traditional bold pronouncements of price promises and theatrics in favor of simple spots that tell a story.
The ads are such a departure, in fact, that it's not until about 22 seconds into the 30-second spots that viewers realize the commercials are for a car dealership.
Bob Farlow, McGeorge's general manager, said the new approach is to emphasize the dealership's relationship with customers.
"It's a family dealership and we take care of our people and have a real high level of customer service," he said.
The ads were created by The King Agency in Richmond. King has been McGeorge's agency for about a year and a half. Work on the campaign began in the fall.
Farlow said he believes the spots help differentiate the dealership from competitors by offering a softer sale with commercials that are not overwhelming or abrasive.
"I said from the start that I wanted something that didn't need a disclaimer," he said.
Too often, he believes, ads that make promises fail to deliver and turn consumers off.
"Our industry is one of the greatest businesses. We do more for the community than many companies," Farlow said. But "we have a bad reputation. And we've earned it."
One big change in the campaign is turning away from pricing as a main component. (The dealer will run separate 10-second spots featuring Toyota's monthly specials.)
George Hoffer, a University of Richmond economics professor who specializes in the automobile industry, said McGeorge's decision to avoid pricing in its advertising is part of an evolving industry trend.
"Increasingly, manufacturers are forcing dealers not to advertise pricing because it diminishes the value of the product," Hoffer said.
He said BMW, Cadillac and Mercedes have all imposed limits on how much of a dealer's advertising can be focused on pricing.
Even as ads move away from pricing, many dealers continue to run personality- or character-driven spots that are over the top, Hoffer said. Deviating from a standard and focusing on the dealership experience could be challenging, said Hoffer, who added that he likes the concept.
In the early 1990s, Infiniti got off to a slow start because its advertising didn't focus enough on the cars, giving Lexus a leg up, he said. "They have very little brand recognition."
McGeorge's campaign launches today with the first of three 30-second spots.
The first ad features a mother and her daughter getting ready for the day and heading off to school. In the voice-over, the mom talks about the importance of having someone to depend on.
The two other spots will debut in coming days. One features a firefighter talking about reliability and a volleyball coach talking about trust.
The tagline for each of the spots is: "We earn your trust everyday."
More could follow, depending on how well the campaign performs.
Aside from the TV ads, the campaign will include signs at the dealership, a fine-tuning of the website and printed materials for customers.
David King, president and creative director of The King Agency, said the spots are built around the concept that McGeorge is a place where integrity reigns.
"Everyone fears walking into a dealership" and facing a cutthroat environment, King said. The spots are designed "to make people feel comfortable walking in here and knowing they're not getting jumped on."
Farlow said he understands the effort and money that goes into creating the campaign is for naught if customers have a bad experience at the dealership. He believes a transparent sales process reinforces the messaging.
"We're not going to blow it when they show up," Farlow said.
Article by Louis Llovio