Most car dealers spend the bulk of their advertising dollars in one medium but reinforce their message on others. For instance, some dealers spend a lot of money on TV and supplement their message on radio, newspaper, direct mail, or digital messages. Some pick the same media outlets in a different order.
In my younger days, digital was not around yet, so while most dealers spent the bulk of their money on TV or the newspapers, I chose to dominate radio, do zero TV, and have a small presence in the two major DFW newspapers.
My reason for radio was fairly simple…people were in their cars a lot and traffic in DFW was starting to get bad. Secondly, you had :60 to get your message out versus :30 on TV. I enacted this strategy in the early 1980s when FM radio was sort of coming into its own.
Still, there was a certain amount of clutter on the radio and I was racking my brain to try to find a way to cut through that. I was spending a good portion of my budget on a country station called KPLX-FM. Ironically, they broadcast from the same building today from which we broadcast the Car Pro Show from.
KPLX had hired a new talent named Terry Dorsey to handle mornings. Terry was a jovial guy with an extremely quick wit about him. When he got to KPLX, they were a distant number two in the country ratings behind KSCS. Terry had an on-air bit in Dayton that he continued in DFW: he did spoof commercials for a place called the Hiney Winery.
The Hiney Winery was owned by the Hiney Brothers, Big Red and Thor. Yes, Big Red Hiney and Thor Hiney. The winery was founded by the brother’s Uncle, Harry Hiney, who always said: “His Hiney was too good not to be shared”. The motto for the winery was “you only go around once in life, so grab all the Hiney you can get.” As time went on we got introduced to Uncle Seymour Hiney and we eventually met Ophelia Hiney.
Terry’s ratings skyrocketed due to the ongoing bit, and Hiney Wine went into syndication. I went to the station to see if I could get Terry Dorsey to personally endorse the dealership I was running. I offered to let him drive one of my vehicles for free, and pay him a talent fee also. It all worked out and to my knowledge that was the first time an on-air personality ever endorsed a car dealership in DFW. It started a wave and in pretty short order, every morning and afternoon talent had a car dealer.
Terry left KPLX, which he made #1 in DFW and moved to KSCS, which also today broadcasts from the same place we do the show. When he moved, I did too, and we picked up the endorsement spots and didn’t miss a beat.
When I got my Buick dealership, I had to drop my endorsement with Terry, I just couldn’t afford it, but we remained friends through the years. However, when I got my Ford dealership, we hooked back up.
As my Ford dealership grew, I added the afternoon drive guy at KSCS named Bill Kinder (still a dear friend today), Vanna, the gal who went out every morning in a van and give away prizes. There may have been one more, but the name escapes me.
One station in DFW flipped to country and you could tell it was going to be a good competitor. It was edgy for country, but it was also fun. I hooked up with every on-air personality from 6 AM to 10 PM, expanding on the template Terry Dorsey and I started many years before. Tragedy struck in 1996 when KYNG’s broadcast tower fell, killing three workers. They got back on the air, but with very low power and the station was never the same.
Shortly after, I hooked up with a contemporary station called KISS-FM, that is still a ratings leader today. The morning guy was Kidd Kraddick, a legend in DFW who was endorsing a Honda dealer as I recall. Their deal fell apart so I signed on with Kidd. Since I had done nothing all these years except country music, KISS-FM opened a completely different audience to my dealership.
Kidd and I became fast friends, and he had two other people on the show, and in pretty quick order, I had all three of them in cars, all chiming in during commercials. Having this crew on board propelled us to another level. My dealership quickly became #1 in Texas, and second wasn’t even close. We were even #1 in America, although just for a month, but that was enough.
Kidd started a charity foundation for terminally and chronically ill children called Kidd’s Kids and he poured his heart and soul into it. Soon after inception, he asked my wife and me to become board members and we remained on the board for over 20 years. Each year, we took between 50 and 60 children, their Moms and Dads, and all siblings, for a totally expense-free trip to Disney World.
Possibly the biggest name in radio in my career was a legend named Ron Chapman. Ron was the morning man for KVIL and I seriously doubt that there was a single person in DFW who didn’t know who he was throughout the 1970s continuing through the 2000s. He was the Godfather of DFW radio.
I had never met Ron Chapman, but like everybody else, had listened to him in the mornings for years. Ron had endorsed the same dealership for a lot of years, and his name and the dealership name were synonymous.
He was an innovator, to say the least, but the comment I heard most from people was that if they were having a bad day, Ron was always there to cheer them up. Once he asked people to send $20 each to KVIL. No reason given, just Ron asking his listeners to send him twenty bucks. Within three days, he had collected over $200,000 that was given to charity.
In 2000, he moved to an Oldies Station called KLUV, and contractually the dealer he endorsed at KVIL had to stay on that station. Out of the clear one day, I got a call from Ron Chapman. For me, it could have been the President of the United States and I would not have been more star struck.
He asked if he could come visit with me the following day and of course, I said yes. We met and he explained he was looking for a good fit for a car dealer to endorse at his new radio home. I was stunned, but finally just asked the question: “Ron, any dealership in DFW would be proud to have you endorse them, why me?”
In typical Ron fashion, he explained: “I stopped to talk to a dozen or so people who had your logo on the back of their cars. Every single one of them-all strangers-were completely happy with your dealership, so I decided to talk to you first. Your charity work is well documented. You are my guy.” We shook hands and were off to the races and continued the endorsement deal until Ron retired.
Still to this day, most on-air personalities have a car dealer they endorse, especially the morning hosts, and many have air conditioning companies, dentists, realtors, and the list goes on and on. Since it is done so much now, I am not sure it is as effective as it was when I started doing it, but I am sure for some car dealers, it still works.
This wonderful story of my brilliance did not always end with such a happy ending, however. In 2002, I purchased the Ford dealership in Edmond, OK from Ford. It was a failed experiment of Ford owning all the dealerships in certain cities. This was the reason I became so involved with the Ford National Dealer Council, and the subject of a future True Story. There were six new Ford dealers in the Oklahoma City area including me, but one dealer didn’t sell to Ford and remained independent. Ironically, it was called Reynolds Ford.
If radio personalities endorsing my dealership worked so well in DFW, it was bound to work in an upscale area of Oklahoma City I convinced myself. I had my media buyer set up meetings at the dealership all day long for the top 8 stations in the market to present to me why their station was the right fit. I was choosing two stations for endorsements, and one for just regular commercials that I would voice myself.
I chose two music stations for endorsements, and went on the air with the top sports station there, introducing myself to the audience and letting them know how we did business, how we’d take care of them, etc.
I had bought music rights to Simply The Best and used that in all the commercials I voiced. The music began “Simply the best, better than all the rest” and then I would come in with “Hi, I’m Jerry Reynolds, the Owner at Prestige Ford in Edmond” and then go on with my message.
About three months into my radio campaign, we were moving up nicely in the sales rankings, but out of the clear blue sky, the dealer in Norman, OK saw its sales jump up. I was happy with our progress but mystified about the sudden sales increase at Reynolds Ford in Norman. What were they doing differently than before? Then it hit me: people were hearing my name, but apparently just hearing the Reynolds portion, so I was advertising for a competitor.
From then on, my commercials started “Hi, this is Jerry, the Owner of Prestige Ford in Edmond”.
Terry Dorsey retired rather suddenly in December of 2015 and I attended his retirement party at KSCS. His retirement took everyone by surprise, including me. After 33 years on the air in DFW, I fully expected him to sit behind a microphone forever. Just three months after retiring, Terry passed away in March of 2016 at the age of 66. Listen to the Car Pro Show on-air tribute below:
Kidd Kraddick grew his morning show into a huge syndication network airing on over 100 stations coast-to-coast. We remained close, due to my affiliation with his Kidd’s Kids charity board. While in New Orleans at a Kidd’s Kids charity golf tournament, David “Kidd” Kraddick suffered a fatal heart attack and died on July 27, 2013. His morning show is still on-air, called The Kidd Kraddick Morning Show, instead of Kidd Kraddick in the morning, and Kidd’s Kids continues to grow and send families to Disney World every November. Kidd was 53.
Ron Chapman, after retirement, sailed the world continuously for a year on a cruise ship on which he bought a suite and still resides in Dallas at the age of 82. Take a look at Ron signing off for the final time on June 24, 2005, after 45 years on the air. If you listened to Ron Chapman, you’ll have tears in your eyes soon.
Photo Credit: Goritza/ShutterstockTags: True Stories From a Former Car Dealer