IS THIS ANY WAY TO SELL AN AUTOMOBILE?
We visited Wells, Rich, Greene recently and asked one of the men most directly responsible for the creative campaign the same question . . . how was it done? Charles Moss confided that, "The public could really care less about advertising. An advertising agency cannot sell a car through a commercial but what it can do is put the viewers in a frame of mind where they don't automatically reject the car - which is what a lot of people were doing with American Motors' cars.
"First of all, anything that happens to American Motors ... good or bad ... is their own fault. If a product is bad, you won't make it. Two of us at WRG created most of the situations you see in the commercials. Stan Gragoti and I came up with the basic ideas and then about eight other people helped polish them. Neither Stan nor I know much about cars.
"I think it's good that we aren't car experts. If we were, we would probably talk over the average viewers' heads. Our commercials are designed so that the viewer recognizes himself in situations he may have experienced, and sympathizes with the driver on the screen. There has to be a strong element of truth or the commercial doesn't reach home ... it isn't funny. We don't try to be funny first - we find that element of sanity and then exaggerate.
"For instance the TV commercial where the fellow pulls his Javelin up to the parking garage and turns it over to the attendant who jumps in, sticks it in gear and then floors the throttle. As the Javelin - tires smoking - disappears up the ramp into the garage, the camera focuses on the owner's cringing face. There are only two lines in this commercial. 'We never had the reputation for building hot sporty cars. Now we have.' At one time or another, almost every car owner watching that commercial has winced as he watched a parking attendant abuse his car. I think you will agree that this type of commercial is far more effective than had we blasted on the screen with a statement. 'Folks, the Javelin is hot and ...'
"And remember earlier in that commercial where the guy on the motorcycle at the stoplight asks the Javelin owner if he wants to drag? The Javelin owner is a timid soul so he begs off saying he has a bowl of goldfish on the seat and has to take it easy. I drive a Javelin and you would be surprised how many people pull up alongside me at a stoplight and ask if I want to drag. And other Javelin owners honk their horns and wave when they pass. Can you imagine American Motors owners doing that a few years ago? In all of our commercials, we try to make the car the hero of the situation.
"Of course a car's success is strongly dependent on dealer strength. We think that our commercials have helped get the dealers excited about the automobiles they're selling. Go to an automobile race and you will see AM dealers in attendance. You can spot them by their red, white and blue jackets. It's a big step toward increased sales when your dealers are enthusiastic"
So we left Wells, Rich. Greene with a feeling that once floundering American Motors is on pretty solid ground. Not just because of Charlie Moss and his creative associates, but because the entire organization from assembly line worker to dealer is convinced they can sell the product. Of course, those TV driving situations you and I have all experienced do put you in the frame of mind not to reject American Motors' cars automatically. /MT