The annual Super Bowl advertising competition takes place on about 100 million TV screens this weekend. But, barring Janet Jackson’s re-baring a breast for a sponsor, none of the multi-million-dollar spots will match the bang per buck that a used-car dealer’s low-tech campaign had on locals this year.
At Eastern Motors/Your job’s your credit!
At Eastern Motors/Your job’s your credit!
Fords, Hondas, Chevys, Beamers,/And minivans
Over 600 cars, trucks, SUVs/ Are you listenin’ man?
Let Eastern Motors/Put you in a car today!
Let Eastern Motors/Finance it all the way!
If you’ve heard it, you’ve probably sung it. And you’ve probably heard it.
“It’s a phenomenon,” says LaVar Arrington, the Redskins linebacker and primary pitchman for Eastern Motors. “The impact of those [ads] has been unbelievable. It’s everywhere.”
The man behind the jingle is Robert Bassam, CEO of Easterns Automotive Group. He began selling cars on Washington Boulevard in Arlington 19 years ago and now owns and operates 10 dealerships under the Eastern Motors name in the Washington/Baltimore area. Bassam says that, though the company has always done well, even he was caught off guard by the boom in business after he put Arrington on camera, along with some teammates and other big-name athletes with area ties, mouthing the company’s catchphrases over some sampled beats.
Bassam says he trademarked the dealership’s go-to slogan, “Where your job is your credit,” a decade ago. More recently, he hired Atlanta music producer Michael Richardson to put those words and other dealership-related lyrics that he and Richardson came up with to the backing track of Shaggy’s 2002 single “Hey Sexy Lady.” (What was once “Hey sexy lady (uh!) I like your flow!” was now “At Eastern Motors, your job’s your credit!”)
“The radio people say you need to give listeners something to keep their ears warm,” says Bassam. “We’ve done that, everybody tells me.”
But the jingle, on its own, wasn’t going to be enough to carry the TV campaign that Bassam envisioned.
“In the past, our commercials just focused on attributes of the dealership,” says Bassam. “But last year, I had a vision. I wanted to use star power.”
Bassam figured no stars in this market could compete with the Redskins. And no Redskin can compete with Arrington. So Bassam got in touch with the linebacker last off-season and started selling him on doing commercials for his dealerships. Bassam says negotiations with Arrington started out tough, but the two hit it off—to the point where, by the time Bassam finished his pitch to the Redskins, not only was Arrington lined up to hawk Eastern Motors’ wares, but similarly high-priced players from the other side of the line, Laveranues Coles and Clinton Portis, were also signed.
“The face of the Redskins, no question, is LaVar,” says Bassam. “Everybody knows that. Once he got involved, the others came along. I got everybody I wanted.” (The dealership has since signed former Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones to help Eastern Motors’ penetration in Southern Virginia and Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets to do the same in his native Baltimore.)
Over the summer, a crew shot footage of the Redskins trio on the football field at Gonzaga High School, near Capitol Hill. Bassam says that as soon as he arrived at the scene, he knew the TV ad campaign was a winner.
“The first thing I see is all the guys sitting in Laveranues Coles’ truck bouncing around and singing my jingle,” he says. “It was fantastic. I thought that maybe LaVar and the other players would be filmed wearing Eastern Motors shirts, and that would be it. I know I would have been too embarrassed to ask them to sing that. I couldn’t believe it.”
The production quality of the Eastern ads is only a cut above cable-access. But as soon as the spots began airing on local channels this summer, they became the talk of Redskins Nation. Bassam says Eastern Automotive’s overall business has increased
“400 percent” in the past two years, and he gives all the credit to his advertising.
The exposure the TV commercials gave the jingle also helped the Eastern Motors radio campaign take off.
“We were hearing from radio stations that listeners were calling up and requesting our commercial,” says Bassam. “We’ve test-marketed it, and, from the country stations to the urban stations, every ethnic group has accepted that jingle.”
To show thanks for the boom in business, and to further increase the dealerships’ presence,
Bassam introduced a weekly car-giveaway promotion at year’s end, with Arrington going on the air at Hot 99.5 to announce the winners.
Bassam says he budgeted $4 million for the current advertising campaign. He won’t divulge how much of that sum was paid to Arrington, Portis, and Coles, who between them have $153.5 million worth of Redskins contracts. “They get cars from us and other incentives” is as far as Bassam goes.
“Everybody asks me, ‘How did you get them to sing? Why would these millionaires sing a jingle for a used-car organization?’” Bassam says with a big laugh. “Well, I don’t know why. Again, these guys are all millionaires. I couldn’t pay them enough if they didn’t want to do it. I know we struck up friendships, and I know it wasn’t all about money.” Arrington concurs.
“I don’t normally do local commercials, but I did this for Rob,” Arrington says. “Rob’s my boy. He’s a great guy. And, yeah, he’s a salesman.”
Bassam has already decided to use the campaign next season, assuming all three players are still with the team. The surest sign that the campaign was a hit came when a Washington Wizards player, whom the dealer declined to name, showed up at the Easterns Automotive offices to ask if he could sing the jingle in a commercial. Bassam turned him down.—Dave McKenna