Commercial Success

The Super Bowl isn’t the only time of year to catch unforgettable commercials—some of the most memorable moments in television advertising come from small business commercials aired in local markets every day. Learn how these ad campaigns led to a major boost in business and name recognition for these companies.

Commercial Stats

Earliest public television ad: Bulova watches, airing June 27, 1941, on NBC's WNBT station in New York.

Highest television advertising rate: The series finale episdoe of Friends on May 6, 2004, at $2 million per 30-second spot.

Shortest television commercial: MuchMusic, a Canadian video and music channel, lasting for 1/60 of a second.

Source: Guinness World Records

The most expensive television commercial was created by Shell in 2007, advertising its V-Power high-performance gasoline. The ad was shot all over the world, featured Ferrari Formula 1 cars and cost $3.9 million.

During the 2007-2008 broadcast network television season, Grey's Anatomy brought in $419,000 per 30-second commercial spot, the highest average advertising rate of any show on air that season.-Ad Age

Easterns Promises

What do Clinton Portis, Antwaan Randle El, Santana Moss and Jason Campbell have in common? They’re all players for the Washington Redskins NFL franchise, but they’ve also all had starring roles in television commercials for the Washington, D.C.-area car dealerships, Easterns Automotive Group.

“In 2001, I was listening to a morning radio show where they were giving away computers and they had one of the Redskins on there. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could do a car giveaway and get them to help with our branding?’” said Robert Bassam, owner of Easterns. “So we made a ‘wish list’ of players we’d like, and at that point, the face of the Redskins was LaVar Arrington.” Bassam got through to Arrington’s people to set up a meeting, formed a friendship with him and Easterns’ partnership with the Redskins franchise began.

“He helped us build a relationship with everyone in the locker room,” said Bassam. “It was unbelievable! As starstruck as I was, I started becoming picky. Now they have to be a Pro Bowl player to be in the commercials—being in the starting lineup isn’t going to do it.” (An exception is made for Redskins mascot Chief Zee, who’s a Hall of Famer.)

Now the players have roles in a half-dozen commercials, lip-syncing and dancing along to Easterns’ popular rap song:

At Easterns Motors, your job's your credit. FORD, HONDA, CHEVY, BEEMERS and MINIVANS. Over 600 cars, trucks, SUVS, are you listening, man? Let easterns Motors put you in a car today. LET EASTERNS MOTORS FINANCE IT ALL THE WAY!

The song is so popular that a local disc jockey, Jesse Tittsworth, made a remix from the jingle, which is played at area clubs.

The motto, “Where Your Job is Your Credit,” is more than just a saying—when customers bring in two recent pay stubs, a phone bill and a reasonable down payment, they can buy a car, regardless of their past credit history. It’s very fitting, since in 1988, Easterns Motors opened its first location with a single objective: To provide the sub-prime customer with a high-quality, satisfying buying experience. “What separates us is the identity in the marketplace, the marketing and branding we do, and the service we give customers,” Bassam explained. “I really believe anything you do, it only brings you the leads. Then you have to provide the service and the product to earn their business. So as creative as marketing can be, if you don’t have the product to back it up, it’ll be short lived.”

Since then, they have expanded to 17 dealerships in Virginia and Maryland, selling more than 50,000 cars over the years and boasting a 97-percent customer satisfaction rating. “Today we are $300 million strong, and we are opening two more dealerships this year,” said Bassam.

Easterns also continues its partnership with the Redskins beyond the television ads—they’ve already held two annual Easterns/Redskins Celebrity Telethons, attended by many of the players from the commercials. The most recent of these events raised more than $225,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. And although Arrington retired from the NFL, he hasn’t forgotten Easterns: Bassam was a groomsman in his wedding.

...Another Man’s Treasure

There’s no jingle to get your attention while watching a commercial for the West Babylon, New York-based BPR Parts Company, and there’s no celebrity, either. Rather, it’s one enraged man’s vicious reaction toward his refrigerator for failing to keep his milk fresh. Livid, the man has his refrigerator dropped by a crane, and just before it smashes into the ground, a tattooed, robust, rocker-type enters, freezes the scene and says,

DUDE, this didnt' have to happen. At BPR we have the parts you need to repair your major appliances - NOT trash them. THAT'S WASTED! Save your appliances. Save your MONEY.

It’s an image no viewer will soon forget.

BPR Parts, which has provided replacement parts for household appliances since 1992, has recently become a distributor for major commercial appliances as well. “My sons actually came up with the concept—it was a joint project between my son, James, who worked here and my son, Gary, who works in advertising,” explained Bill Waldinger, owner of BPR.

The inspiration for the ad came out of the larger issue of the disposable society in which we live today. “Years ago, when people bought a washer or dryer, it was a status symbol, and you took care of it because you owned one,” said Gary. “Now they’re more affordable, but when it comes to fixing and maintaining appliances, people would rather just offload them than repair them. There’s a certain amount of things that people can do to maintain them, and there are places like BPR where people can go to fix them.” Added Bill, “We think it’s time to go back to the ‘old-timer’ way, where we try to fix what we have and save our precious resources.”

The commercial was filmed in Spring 2007 and starred professional actors—Cash Tilton played the angry refrigerator owner, while an actor, known as “Little Stevie,” played the laid-back rocker, a character based on the recently deceased and much-loved James Waldinger. It ran on local television stations and generated further buzz when posted on the BPR website. Once it went up on YouTube, according to Gary, it went from a few hundred hits to several thousand. “We’ve gotten some good feedback,” added Bill. “Most people said it was unique and different—trying to bring us back to the reality of the world instead of throwing everything away in the garbage dumps!”

Jolly Rancher

Alaska residents are all too familiar with the grandfatherly man in a SpongeBob SquarePants tie, who dances wildly onscreen and sings:

Get more SLEEP without countin' SHEEP, and have another night of BLISS. Across from J.C. Penney's warehouse on Arctic is WHERE WE IS! SAVE MORE BUCKS at the MATTRESS RANCH!

Sound crazy? If anything, Ted Sadtler, the owner and spokesman of Mattress Ranch, is crazy like a fox. Originally from New Jersey, Sadtler migrated to Chugiak, Alaska in 1971 to open his first furniture store. Through the combination of aggressive advertising and low-priced furniture, he expanded to locations in Anchorage, Sterling, Fairbanks and Wasilla, but ended up having to sell the stores after a series of real estate snafus. Sadtler then moved to Washington state, where he opened a high-end and a mid-range furniture store. “After 10 years of trial, I realized that I couldn’t bring great values to the furniture business, but we could offer tremendous value in mattresses,” he said. “The idea for the Mattress Ranch came to me in those years.”

Get on the Air

Want to start advertising your business on television? Here are some useful resources.

Cheap TV Spots

For a flat fee of $1,999, Cheap TV Spots will create a national-quality, 30-second advertising spot custom-made for your business. The price includes concept development, scripting, directing, filming, editing, special effects, music, narration, broadcast tape and media buying help.

Spot Runner

This company was the first Internet-based ad agency to make it easy and affordable for local businesses to advertise on TV. Spot Runner offers a complete solution for television advertising: commercial production, media planning and media buying. The entire process takes just days at a fraction of the traditional cost.

Pick-n-Click Ads

Specifically geared toward automotive dealerships, Pick-n-Click touts itself as the world’s first virtual ad agency. Through its user-friendly website, one can easily create ads for television, print and radio, keeping the brand image strong.

Sadtler’s goal was to “cut out the middleman” by going directly to the manufacturers and buying fabric, springs, latex and visco—all the materials that go into mattresses—and having the factories produce mattresses just for him to sell. The end products were mattresses nearly identical to the large brand-name ones, like Serta, Simmons and Sealy, but Sadtler was able to buy them, and sell them at his first Mattress Ranch store in Bremerton, Wash., for far less than his competition.

Over the past decade, Mattress Ranch has grown to include five locations in Washington, and Sadtler returned to Alaska in 2004 to open four locations there, where his commercials reign as a favorite among local residents. In fact, readers of The Anchorage Press voted the Mattress Ranch as the winner of “Best Local TV Commercial” for their Press Picks 2007 award. Not only that, members of a local rock band named themselves “The Mattress Ranchers” in the store’s honor.

Speed Racers

It’s not just the Milwaukee Brewers baseball players who round the bases at their ball games. Once every home game, the famous Klement’s Racing Sausages make an appearance as well. The five sausage mascots—Bratwurst, Polish Sausage, Italian Sausage, Hot Dog and the most recent addition to the team, Chorizo—shot to local stardom through Klement’s partnership with the Brewers, which started in 1988.

In recent years, the Racing Sausages have become synonymous with not only the Brewers, but also the local, family-run sausage company that created them. Founded in Milwaukee in 1956 by the three Klement brothers, John, George and Ron, the company has expanded to more than 500 employees at two plants occupying over 250,000 square feet of space.

The Racing Sausages star in local television commercials showing the sausages in action at Miller Park, racing and dancing to the Klement’s jingle:

It's the Klement's Sausage Racers! Why do they race? THEY RACE FOR TASTE. There's Frankie, and Guido, and Stash. And Bratwurst! And Cinco! Just look at them go, because they know When you run out of Klement's, YOU RUN OUT OF TASTE.

The sausages were even selected to star in one of ESPN’s “This is SportsCenter” television commercials in the summer of 2006, giving them nationwide exposure. The quirky ad features the Hot Dog mascot in the ESPN cafeteria line with SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott, who chastises the cannibalistic sausage for ordering a hot dog at lunch.

Today, Klement’s Sausages are sold in all 50 states, and their success is undoubtedly attributed in part to the lovable mascots and their antics. “For nearly 20 years, Brewers fans have enjoyed Klement’s quality sausage products while they watch the famous Klement’s Sausage Races at Brewers home games,” said Dan Lipke, Klement’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We are thrilled about our long-standing partnership with the Milwaukee Brewers.”

Character Counts

Move over, Letterman and Leno—there’s a new king of late-night entertainment. Marc Brown, the owner of Cleveland’s Norton Furniture, reigns as the most well-known spokesman for any local business in Northern Ohio. In the mid-’90s, Brown took over the small furniture business, located in a low-income area of Cleveland, from his retiring father. Brown initially engaged in a variety of aggressive marketing campaigns, including selling mattresses directly to consumers at housing projects and advertising on local R&B and hip-hop radio stations. However it was not until he began starring in his famous television ads that his business started to skyrocket.

The ads feature Brown himself, a graying, pony-tailed hippie with a distinctive, raspy voice (due to a childhood vocal cord injury). He stands inside his massive furniture showroom, and behind him are life-size statues of a variety of celebrities and characters including Betty Boop, Ray Charles and Captain Hook. In the commercials, he’s sometimes accompanied by costumed frogs or ninjas with samurai swords, but he always delivers his classic line:

Good news for people that have CREDIT PROBLEMS! NORTON FURNITURE is here for YOU. Now, SERIOUSLY, if you can't get credit in my store, you can't get credit ANYWHERE. My name is Marc, and YOU CAN COUNT ON IT.

He’s right—Norton Furniture is there for their customers. Not only does the store (now an eight-floor warehouse) provide furniture at low prices, the shoppers are treated like valued guests. Every potential client walking through the door receives a free loaf of bread and customers can expect a birthday card once a year. Plus, every established client that brings in a new one receives $25 cash on the spot. Brown’s business cards even include his home phone number, just in case he can go the extra mile to help out a client.

His personal touches have made him a beloved figure in the Cleveland area, which has definitely contributed to the store’s success. In fact, a hot commodity in Ohio is the Norton’s Furniture T-shirt, depicting what else? Brown’s friendly face.

Is this topic relevant to your small business? Discover more for FREE through our print version.

Reader Comments

Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 7:55 AM
David Robinson says:
Owning a small production company myself, this article caught my attention. Thanks for a great report! I only wish that the the actually commercials would have been presented here for viewing. Being on the production side, I'm interested in the quality of these spots. I'm guessing that being different than the competition always trumps the actual quality of the commercial. I'm sure that they can be found on YouTube. I'll see what I can find. Thanks again.

Copyright © 2009 - 2021 America's Best. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.