There is no one more passionate or knowledgeable about a Maine small business than its owner. So, it always surprises me when, in ads on Portland radio, a business owner defers to a disinterested announcer to engage prospective customers.
I have heard all the excuses why the owner does not want to appear in their commercial. It usually comes down to a dislike of their own voice or a simple case of nerves. An ad on Portland radio has the potential to be heard by hundreds-of thousands of Mainers. Why not extend a personal invitation for each one of them to do business with you?
Think of it this way: if you met a potential customer for your business at a party, would you give her a business card with a Portland radio announcer's name on it? I hope not.
This is something Stacy and Win Dodge learned. The sister and brother are co-owners of Bill Dodge Auto Group. Together they operate 8 Maine car dealerships in Saco, Westbrook, and Brunswick that sell BMWs, Infinitis, Kias, Hyundais, Nissans, Cadillacs, GMCs, and Buicks.
If you were one of the 691,336 adults who tuned-in to a Portland radio station last week, then you probably spent at least 60-seconds with Ms. and Mr. Dodge as they engaged in sibling inspired banter about buying a new or used car from them. According to Matt Barnard, who produces these commercials, this on-air conversation has been going on since 2007.
Prior to 2007, Ms. Dodge says, "Our commercials sounded like everyone else. We knew we needed to mix it up."
It Took A Lot Of Convincing
At first, like many business owners, the Dodge's were reluctant to star in their own commercials. "There was a lot of brainstorming with our managers and our marketing folks," remembers Ms. Dodge. "It took a lot of convincing on their parts to get Win and me to try it."
"The original concept," says Mr. Barnard, "was for Win to be the the super-straight, never-crack-a-smile character and Stacy was going to be the energetic, funny one. But things evolved to the shtick you hear today where Stacy plays the 'straight-man' and Win offers the comic relief."
Ms. Dodge points out that what you hear on the radio really reflects the real-life Stacy and Win. "Let's just say, "the bantering in the commercials comes quite naturally."
Right now, the Stacy and Win commercials only appear on Portland radio stations. "We've actually done some television commercials in the past, too, says Ms. Dodge. "But, we chose many years ago to try and dominate one medium rather than try and be on everything. We had just started doing Stacy and Win radio commercials and were getting a lot of positive feedback on them. So, we opted to go down the radio road for our long-term marketing plan."
National Caliber Commercials
Mr. Barnard adds, "Radio also allows a local commercial right here in Westbrook, Maine that sound every bit as good as something produced by the biggest New York City advertising agency. To produce a national caliber TV ad requires processing, editing, cameras, makeup, lighting. Plus, you need spokespeople who are 100% comfortable in front of a camera."
"On the other hand," says Mr. Barnard, "to produce a high-quality radio commercial requires a $60 USB microphone, a laptop, and passionate voices. Also, using radio's 'theater of the mind" we can place Stacy and Win anywhere and in any situation."
"For instance," continues Mr. Barnard, "we've had Stacy and Win in the middle of a construction site. We have also made it sound like Win has ridden a motorcycle on into the showroom much to bemusement of Stacy."
Potential Customers Know Us Better
These commercials have had a positive effect on business at Bill Dodge Auto Group. "I think," says Ms. Dodge, "they set us apart and are quite memorable. I also think it helps folks to feel more connected to us as owners. Potential customers feel like they know us better."
"For my part," adds Mr. Barnard, "these are some of the most recognizable, most easily-referenced commercials I have ever worked on. When I tell people I have worked on the Stacy and Win commercials, almost 100% of the time they will proclaim they are quite familiar with them."
This played out in real-life for Ms. and Mr. Dodge. "we were at a Maine ski resort getting some dinner together and all of a sudden one of the waitresses was like 'wait...I know those voices.' She recognized us just from the voices in our commercials. It was pretty cool!"
Here is an example of a Bill Dodge Kia commercial from 2016. It is one of my favorites.
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