From Trite to Contrite

By Tk Published on .

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It's the Age of Apology. America may apologize for slavery; the Germans may apologize for the Holocaust; and Rogers Pontiac in Chicago has already apologized for its advertising. Its old advertising. Now that veteran Windy City adman Tom Ungar and his Ungar Group have the Rogers account, no further penance is required. But first Ungar had to clean the slate with a blanket apology in the form of a :30 titled, well, "Apology," supported by a similar newspaper spread. In the spot, the camera lingers on Mylar "I'm Sorry" balloons and other kitschy objects of regret as a weepy schlemiel's VO, backed by Dvorak's "Humoresque," tells us how sorry Rogers is "for the car dealer advertising we've subjected you to for as long as you have lived. Starting today, you won't be pummeled by any lame, cheesy, annoying advertising. At least, not from us. We just want to apologize. In public. And hope you let us make it up to you, face to face."

CD/writer Ungar (seen here with campaign AD Mark Ingraham) describes the work from Rogers' previous agency, Mallof Abruzino & Nash Marketing, as "the typical formula local car dealer ads. It wasn't even bad enough that it would stand out. The worst Borax imaginable." OK, but how did it get from that to this? "We sprung it out of the blue, and he was stunned," Ungar says of client Monty Scher. "It took him months to think about it. He's still wrestling with it, but he's getting calls and I told him that's the first step -- you have to be noticed. He got some calls asking if he was going out of business, but those were rival dealers fooling around, I think. Now he says business is picking up. I told him, `You need to run this for a minimum of two months,' " and at press time there were still a few weeks to go. "We only showed him one campaign, no backup," Ungar adds. "And nothing changed from the presentation, which happens all too rarely for my taste."

This is Ungar's first car dealer client -- "We never thought we'd be working in this area," he chuckles -- and to the best of his knowledge this expression of heartfelt remorse is unprecedented in the ad business. Will it trigger an avalanche of apology ads from other Chicago advertisers? "I don't know, but I think it's called for," he says.

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