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Ken Cosgrove couldn’t believe his ears. In no uncertain terms, the president of theJaguar Dealership Association had just offered to cast his vote for Ken’s ad campaign – if he could sleep with the agency’s voluptuous queen bee, Joan Harris. Ken blinked rapidly, visibly unseated by the scandalous request for both bribery and prostitution. “Was that what I think it was?” His associate Pete Campbell bore a similar look of disgust. “Yes…it was.”
Ken grimaced and got up to leave. “Well, we wanted to be in the car business.”
Sunday’s installment of Mad Men, AMC’s award-winning 1960s drama, had a lot to say about the car business – and none of it was good. Don Draper, the show’s main focus and advertising wunderkind, pitched his Jaguar campaign with the tagline, “At last, something beautiful you can truly own.” In an episode largely about trading women like commodities, the slogan seems eerily appropriate. In a dimly-lit diner, one character consoles another: “Car guys are scum.”
Of course, these are fictional characters in a time period free from sexual harassment lawsuits and the poison of negative press. But do “car guys” still carry this old reputation as womanizing predators around with them? Ad Age reports that Jaguar received Sunday’s episode with equal parts of shock and amusement. David Pryor, Jaguar’s VP of brand development, says that “at the end of the day…we’re confident that people know it’s a fictional character.”
The “car guy” is historically one of the most reviled professions in America, right up there with lawyers, telemarketers, and even advertisers – but what has the industry done to distance itself from the demons of its past? Despite a few recent instances of bad publicity, our profession as a whole has completely reinvented itself within the last decade. Car sales is now a business that is completely consumer-oriented – so much so that sites like these exist to discuss how we can improve our customers’ experience not just in physical dealerships but on their websites as well.
I am proud to be a part of outstanding networks like Automotive Digital Marketing, DealerElite, andDrivingSales. On a daily basis, I watch car guys raise industry standards by banding together, sharing advice, and making the Web feel like a true community. With the spirit of partnership and unity found on these forums, I believe that harsh critiques like those in Sunday’s Mad Men will soon be a thing of the past.
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