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What Mad Men Had To Say About Car Guys

Ken Cosgrove couldn’t believe his ears. In no uncertain terms, the president of theJaguar Dealership Association had just offered to cast his vote for Ken’s ad campaign – if he could sleep with the agency’s voluptuous queen bee, Joan Harris. Ken blinked rapidly, visibly unseated by the scandalous request for both bribery and prostitution. “Was that what I think it was?” His associate Pete Campbell bore a similar look of disgust. “Yes…it was.”

Ken grimaced and got up to leave. “Well, we wanted to be in the car business.”

Sunday’s installment of Mad Men, AMC’s award-winning 1960s drama, had a lot to say about the car business – and none of it was good. Don Draper, the show’s main focus and advertising wunderkind, pitched his Jaguar campaign with the tagline, “At last, something beautiful you can truly own.” In an episode largely about trading women like commodities, the slogan seems eerily appropriate. In a dimly-lit diner, one character consoles another: “Car guys are scum.”

Of course, these are fictional characters in a time period free from sexual harassment lawsuits and the poison of negative press. But do “car guys” still carry this old reputation as womanizing predators around with them? Ad Age reports that Jaguar received Sunday’s episode with equal parts of shock and amusement. David Pryor, Jaguar’s VP of brand development, says that “at the end of the day…we’re confident that people know it’s a fictional character.”

The “car guy” is historically one of the most reviled professions in America, right up there with lawyers, telemarketers, and even advertisers – but what has the industry done to distance itself from the demons of its past? Despite a few recent instances of bad publicity, our profession as a whole has completely reinvented itself within the last decade. Car sales is now a business that is completely consumer-oriented – so much so that sites like these exist to discuss how we can improve our customers’ experience not just in physical dealerships but on their websites as well.

I am proud to be a part of outstanding networks like Automotive Digital MarketingDealerElite, andDrivingSales. On a daily basis, I watch car guys raise industry standards by banding together, sharing advice, and making the Web feel like a true community. With the spirit of partnership and unity found on these forums, I believe that harsh critiques like those in Sunday’s Mad Men will soon be a thing of the past.


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Comment by Stephen Jackson on June 6, 2012 at 6:51am

Here's another example of car guys becoming more customer focused:

What do you guys think about GM's new employee bonus structure?

Comment by Tom Gorham on June 1, 2012 at 7:49pm

Thanks Keith, and you're right about car guys being the safest butt-of-a-joke.  But I believe we are earning more respect everyday.... by earning it customer by customer.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on June 1, 2012 at 1:45pm

Tom I love your comment about respect!

And car guys are the safest butt-of-a-joke out there.  THAT is another reason the stereotype continues.

Comment by Tom Gorham on June 1, 2012 at 12:21pm

BTW Ralph, I would love to hear about your days as a roadie. ;-)  Maybe someday over dinner...

Comment by Tom Gorham on June 1, 2012 at 12:17pm

Look, I've been in the business for 18 years which makes me a relative newcomer by some standards.  But I'm not a kid.  I can tell you that this attitude is not car business related.  It is simply schoolboy related and has been around a long time.  Some people never grow up even when they advance in career.  Sometimes they even regress as they advance in career.

"Boys will be boys" is the lamest excuse for having no morals I have ever heard.  It absolutely has no place in today's world and you will not hear it from the younger generation.

Respect is the new keyword.  Give it and get it.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on June 1, 2012 at 2:31am

Hey Ken - You have a profile pic that looks like you are in a helicopter... That's pretty darned cool all by itself!  As for my two year stint working for Harvey and Corky Productions while attending graduate school in New York... Ahhhh... Those are some VERY fond memories and craziness as well.  Every time I see a "Miramax" film I get a chuckle because Harvey Weinstein had me doing work for Miramax before it was bought by Disney.  In those days, the owners of Miramax were a Father/son Viet Namese French pair.  Danny Ubuad was the son and he was truly psycho, if anyone wants to hear a real tale of bizarreness, when you see me in person ask me about the story with Danny Ubuad (Miramax) and the bottle of Ketchup.

Comment by Ken Bittner on May 31, 2012 at 7:28pm
You I read these posts and I listen to everyone "talk" about how much we've "evolved" in our business over the last 50 years or so I'm sure there is a semblance of truth in all of that.
I started out washing cars in 1960 so do the math on how long I've been fooling Round with these cars and this business. Now...that doesn't necessarily make me any smarter...maybe I've just seen a little more than a lot of you.
Here's what I know (as evidenced by my experience in selling a car just yesterday); in the 50+ years I've been doing this and all the "changes" we've gone thru, two things haven't changed.
No matter what price I give someone on a's never low enough.
No matter how much I offer them (initially) for their's never enough.
So who is it that continues to "force" the negotiation process? Is its us or is it the customer?
How do we get the customer to evolve?
Sorry Ralph...I was never in one of those episodes. I guess I don't dance as well as Sean!
Comment by Keith Shetterly on May 31, 2012 at 7:27pm
Comment by Ralph Paglia on May 31, 2012 at 3:58pm

Here is a piece of auto industry trivia about that particular Mad Men episode... I just found out that a great car guy and good friend of mine was in that episode with his wife.  Sean Wolfington and his wife, Ana were in the episode that is the subject of this blog post.  The segment they appear in is called “A Christmas Waltz”.  Ana and Sean were the couple that were doing the waltz that Don Draper and Joan (the red head) were talking about as they pointed to them.

Comment by Ketty Colom on May 31, 2012 at 1:23pm

I, too, would like to hear about your days as a roadie Ralph =) 

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