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Self-serve

Radio advertising for carwashes

October 11, 2010
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Last month I gave you my recommendations for advertising on the radio and promised I would tell you about my most successful radio campaign.

I gave 10 recommendations and want to review two of those that are important to today’s discussion.

1.) A picture is worth a thousand words. In a radio commercial you have limited time and certainly can’t get in a thousand words. But, you can paint a picture in the mind’s eye with a few choice words in a short narrative.

2.) A little humor is good; a lot is better; but subtle humor is best. (Note the names of the seagulls in the ads below.)

Sometimes you can paint the picture funny by itself. Sometimes you let the listeners work with their own imaginations.

Sometimes you might just want to leave them dangling…and thinking.

A lesson by example
The following commercials were all 15 seconds long. The first sentence sets the scene and is included in each narrative.

Sometimes I had to leave out the “Nope, we gotta teach ‘em,” in order to cut the longer ads down to 15 seconds.

  • “Here we are at American Pride Car Wash’s Seagull Bombardiering School. Y’all thought they did that naturally. Nope, we gotta teach ‘em. Here comes Gimpy. OHH! Right on the windshield! Good job, Gimp.”
  • “Here we are at American Pride Car Wash’s Seagull Bombardiering School. Y’all thought they did that naturally. Nope, we gotta teach ‘em. Here comes Little Missy; ear flaps tied, goggles on, bomb site in. OOPS! Dang, I keep telling those instructors to wear hats.”
  • “Here we are at American Pride Car Wash’s Seagull Bombardiering School. Y’all thought they did that naturally. Nope, we gotta teach ‘em. Here comes Delbert; ear flaps not tied, goggles hanging. (Yell) You can be replaced by a pigeon, ya know!”
  • “Here we are at American Pride Car Wash’s Seagull Bombardiering School. Y’all thought they did that naturally. Nope, we gotta teach ‘em. Here comes Stool, the only pigeon in the fleet. Heavier load, ya know, but not very swift.”
  • “Here we are at American Pride Car Wash’s Seagull Bombardiering School. Y’all thought they did that naturally. Nope, we gotta teach ‘em. Here comes D-minus Sammy. No, no! Not my car! (loud) Doggone it, Sam! Flunk him!”
  • “Here we are at American Pride Car Wash’s Seagull Bombardiering School. Y’all thought they did that naturally. Nope, we gotta teach ‘em. Here comes Ol’ One Eye. (Alarm) Watch out for the antenna! Pull up! Pull up! EWW! That’s gotta hurt. Someone help him off of there.”
  • “Here we are at American Pride Car Wash’s Seagull Bombardiering School. Y’all thought they did that naturally. Nope, we gotta teach ‘em. Here comes Loosey, he never makes it to the car, but whatever he hits people bring in to wash. Not the house, Loose!”
  • “Here we are at American Pride Car Wash’s Seagull Bombardiering School. Y’all thought they did that naturally. Nope, we gotta teach ‘em. Here comes Skippy. Yeah! Front and back window! Right on, Skip. I gotta get more like him.”

I have a few more, but you get the drift. We ran these commercials six times a day, alternating between three or four at a time. We would run the same group for about a month. I did the narrating myself.

I haven’t run these commercials for about three years, but I still have customers mention them like they heard them on the air yesterday. The retention factor must be phenomenal.

Straight from the source
Where did I get the idea? From a customer, of course.

A man came in one day and asked what we pay those dang seagulls to crap all over his car.

There is something else that you should be aware of. There is a fine line between humor and stupid. Some people will think the seagull commercials are stupid.

No one ever told me to my face, but from experience I know that some people would think it. That’s OK though, they’ll remember it and they’ll discuss it with their friends.

And most important, I don’t think we lose them as a customer.

Unfortunately our radio stations are now all owned by the same company and they do not have the 15-second commercials any more.

I used to get the 15-second weather ads for $3 each. They now charge $12 each for 30 seconds.

Now, however, I do have a five-second spot on the weather that costs $5. They’re all prime time spots, though.

The final lesson: Life is just not fair…and…ah, watch out for incoming seagulls!


Dennis Ryan has been in the carwash business since 1988 and the construction business for 40 years. At one time he owned and operated five self-service carwashes. Currently he owns and operates American Pride Carwash in Casper/Evansville, WY. He can be contacted at nayrsinned@msn.com.

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