Appealing to the Masses

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With an estimated billion televisions worldwide, commercials are the way to sell your product, but making them is not always as easy as it may appear.

Businessmen and women will go to extremes to sell their products, and perhaps no business has become more famous for its commercials than car dealerships. They often feature the owners themselves trying to lure you to the lot.

Take brad and Bob, of Meridian Automotive, for instance. Through a trilogy of ads, this pair staged all kinds of mishaps, all designed to grab your attention and sell you a car.

"I have seen other commercials like it in other markets, not exactly like it, but similar," said Brad Bessner, who owns the dealership. "We were looking for something to do, something fun to grab people's attention."

Bessner, along with general sales manager Bob Bethae said in a competitive field like automotive sales, it's the ads that get you onto the customers shopping list.

"Yeah I think something like this gets you noticed. It gets you onto the shopping list. People remember you because of the humor in the commercials," said Bessner.

The commercials themselves have evolved over the years. Gone are the days of crazy outfits. Props, giant cranes and elaborate sets are in.

"We get a reaction all the time, just about everywhere we go," said Brad.

No matter the brand, it's that reaction that will keep the supply of crazy car commercials on demand, a reaction that doesn't come cheap.

In Meridian, one 30 second ad can cost you as much as $300, that's about $10 a second. Which is nothing compared to national ads, which in some cases can cost upwards of million dollars.

To say commercials are popular is an understatement. During the Super Bowl they get more attention than the game itself. Nowadays, with more channels than ever before, local businesses have got to find something or someone, to set their product apart.

Another local celebrity is known as "Billy Bob", the famous country boy who wants a four-wheeler. He doesn't talk a lot but the character leaves a lasting impression.

"I get people coming up to me all the time," said Jason Felton, who portrays "Billy Bob". "If I go to Wal-Mart and stuff like that, people recognize me a lot. Although I have a hair cut now so that helps out a lot."

Felton is married and has a small child. He works at the La-Z-Boy Plant in Newton.

"That's (Billy Bob) pretty much what I am called at work now," Felton said. "Once people started asking me if it was me, I told them and it's kind of died out since then."

Rick Davis, who owns Meridian Cycles, said it's a marketing tool that he's glad he chose.

"We get people coming in, saying they have seen the commercial and want a four wheeler or ATV, so it's worked well for us," said Davis.

To "Billy Bob", the commercials are just for fun. He gets no real monetary compensation for doing them. Felton says the character comes to him easily. In fact, just like the most recent ad, he said he would choose the four-wheeler over the girl any time.

"Less maintenance, wouldn't cost me as much, and I could re-sell it any time," joked Felton.

Let's just hope his wife doesn't find out. "Billy Bob" joins the ranks of dozens of local television personalities who are the faces of area products.

There are many that Newscenter 11 couldn't get to in a short period of time, like the New South Ford guys or how about the little girl from the Wrangler Furniture commercials?

You'll see more than 20,000 commercials a year, each one vying for a piece of your paycheck.