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a word of caution to business owners featured in their own commercials

It’s really the car dealers’ fault.

Somewhere in a marketing meeting in Detroit long ago, a car maker’s resident ad guru came up with the brilliant (?) idea to present at the national dealer’s meeting – have the owner of the dealership appear in the radio and television ads. Other business owners took note of the trend and figured they’d do it too.

What do I think of the idea?

Two words: New Coke®. Yeah, bad, reeeeeaaaaalllly bad idea. Get past the usually unfair stereotype of a Car Dealer for a second (although that negative stereotype was indeed fostered by dealers appearing in bad commercials, often late at night), these folks are often good managers, good salesmen and good people but they are rarely good spokespeople.

Oh, it worked once in the eighties but even when Chrysler recently resurrected Lee Iacocca to pitch cars again, it was simply not good (Iacocca playing golf with Snoop Dog dressed in pastel argyle?! That’s brain numbing on so many levels that we’re all lucky our eyeballs didn’t roll up in our heads and stay put!)

But it’s memorable, you say? So is a kidney stone but, not in a good way.

It’s the same note of severe caution I would offer to any business person looking to appear in a radio or TV ad. No matter what your TV or radio account executive tells you, it might not be the best idea to be your own spokesperson if you really don’t have the performance skills to pull it off.

What do you have to lose, you ask? How about your professional credibility and your reputation?

Example one: You come up with a concept to appear in a television commercial for your company that features you either “acting”, or dressing up in a silly outfit or behaving in a way that is out of character for you. The spot may be funny and memorable but likely not in the way you intended and not in a way that builds sales (which is why most of us advertise anyway.)

Example two: The business owner decides that he wants to be the “announcer” for his own radio commercial. Fine, except he speaks in a low monotonous cadence or she has a squeaky nasally voice. Neither is likely to encourage listeners to stay tuned in to hear the message and buy the product or service. Yikes! Those folks should never be featured in commercial except in extenuating circumstances.

There are no doubt many talented business owners who have great communication skills and look good on camera and will serve as terrific company representatives.  But that’s NOT everybody and a truly smart business person will “know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em” when it comes to picking a spokesperson or talent for their spots