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Local Spot Yields Refreshing Bit of Honest Advertising

If Your Ads Have Been Promising Spiritual Fulfillment Instead of Selling a Product, Watch This

By Published on . 5

Local commercials are universally terrible for all the obvious reasons: low production values, bad writing and performance, no evidence of strategy, obnoxious proprietors basking in the reflected glamour of their mattress stores.

Title: Painfully Honest and Epic Mobile Home Commercial
Marketer: Cullman Liquidation Center
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Agency: Rhett and Link
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In short, Robert Lee looks as though he would hit you. But, you've got to hand him this: He's straightforward.
What's good about local commercials is that, over time, some of the characters do sort of worm their ways into our hearts, if for no other reason than for being so awful for so long. Local buffoon one day, endearing institution the next.

Furthermore, unlike most national advertising, they're not afraid to sell goods and services or to ask for our business. Yeah, they're shrill and abrasive, but they also often generate traffic and sales, which is probably more than you can say for, say, that gorgeous "All You Need is Love" BlackBerry campaign. (Why do the folks at Research in Motion -- and, by the way, HTC and Palm -- insist on promising creative and spiritual fulfillment when what they're selling is a Swiss Army Knife with a dial tone?) But we digress.

There are at least two guys who just love local commercials, or so we gather from their website, called ILoveLocalCommercials.com. They are named Rhett and Link, and -- sponsored by a small-business risk-management company -- they voluntarily produce spots for little companies that amuse them. One such was the Cullman (Ala.) Liquidation Center, an outfit that buys used mobile and modular homes, fixes them up and resells them.

Cullman Liquidation does not trade on the Nasdaq. No WPP agency has tried to win its business (although check back next Monday). It certainly has no media budget. But it does have a commercial, shot on a shoestring by Rhett and Link, with no production gloss but plenty of moxie.

The star of the ad is the owner, Robert Lee, a blunt, strapping character right out of reality TV. He'd fit in nicely on "Dog, the Bounty Hunter," and it requires no effort to imagine him standing on his porch, shirtless, waving something sharp or heavy against the strobe of C*O*P*S dome lights.

In short, he looks as though he would hit you. But, you've got to hand him this: He's straightforward.

"I'm not gonna waste your time; I'm gonna tell it just like it is. These are mobile homes, not mansions. They come in two pieces. If that's what you're lookin' for, that's what I've got. They're used. Some of them have stains. We cover that up."

Then Robert introduces his staff, who are also on the rough-hewn side. ("She decorates them. She sells them. These guys help me move them.") And then, just to establish himself as more than just an aloof TV celebrity, he tells us something about himself:

"A bouncer in Birmingham hit me in the face with a crescent wrench five times, and my wife's boyfriend broke my jaw with a fencepost. So if you don't buy a trailer from me, it ain't gonna hurt my feelings. So come on down to Cullman Liquidation and get yourself a home. Or don't. I don't care."

He don't care! And he probably ain't lying. And there's something weirdly attractive about that.

There's also something attractive about imagining at least one bull market in the advertising industry: CGA-plus for the Long Tail of enterprises hitherto priced out of the market by agencies and media. Robert Lee is apt to discover he can, for a very low cost, become the only celebrity in the central-Alabama used-trailer industry. And hundreds of thousands of proprietors just like him.

Rhett and Link, and their like, no doubt would be pleased to help. So look them up.

Or not. We don't care.

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