Sept. 11, 2021

22 years later this ad is still talked about! Sean Marra and Jeff Sterns discuss!

Jeff Sterns was a new general sales manager at a Cadillac and Land Rover dealership that needed a vibe boost. Enter Sean Marra, met through Michael Sterns....Jeff's brother. Sean was a creative guy at a local weekly newspaper. Charged with "make us...

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Jeff Sterns was a new general sales manager at a Cadillac and Land Rover dealership that needed a vibe boost. Enter Sean Marra, met through Michael Sterns....Jeff's brother. Sean was a creative guy at a local weekly newspaper. Charged with "make us relevant to the hip crowd", Sean came up with an ad campaign that included headlines like PLENTY OF LEG ROOM, PLENTY OF HEAD ROOM and LEATHER OPTIONAL using models that were local influencers in the hipster crowd. Finally after a weekly run, on week 12 the blond woman in the leather outfit (holding a whip) was replaced with a new unknown model.....and the ad would never be forgotten.


Jeff Sterns  0:00  
Jeff Sterns connected through cars with my great friend Sean Mara, I cannot tell you how excited I am to have Sean on the show today. On the screen, you're gonna see this leather optional ad and there's a big story behind it. And what's so interesting about it. When I was running a dealership, I asked Shawn for a particular mission. And he pulled it off, but he didn't just pull it off like, oh, here's an interesting ad, but pre influencer, they were influencers in town that Shawn incorporated into these ads, you're going to find it fascinating. You really need to watch this.

Unknown Speaker  0:39  
Jeff Sterns connected through cars, if they're bigwigs, we'll have him on the show. And yes, we'll talk about cars and everything else. Here he is now, Jeff Sterns kinda before there was influencers, right?

Jeff Sterns  0:57  
influencers before no one we didn't know they were influencers and now we know they were influencer. Let me set it up. I take over as general sales manager of a Cadillac Landrover dealership, in Clearwater, Florida. At the time, this dealership was in a southern mansion, architecture building that had marble floors, brass chandelier in the showroom, and a little bit like a funeral home, when people would come in, they would whisper and if their kids were making noise, they be like, Billy, be quiet. You're in the mansion. And we were we had a little bit I mean, a very, very loyal clientele. And we love the heck out of the customers. And we had what we call the five horsemen, we had five sales people there that were there between 16 and 34 years. And one of them was the only living original charter member of what they call the Cadillac crest Club, which was a, you know, certain sales achievement Guild. So even though I mean that the the halls were hallowed and had some talent in there and some accomplishment, we were trying to shift the personality and shift the public persona. Am I saying that right, Shawn?

Unknown Speaker  2:15  
Yeah, well, I mean, times were changing, it was a different, it was a mid 90s. And there was a lot of change, the Gen Z was was coming up, and was going to be the next customer of your store and many other stores for the next 2030, you know, 40 years. And there was a lot of change in the marketplace and with culture and with what was accepted what wasn't accepted, it was a really, really interesting time. And if you recall going back that far, you know, it was the alternative, you know, Revolution, the alternative music and art and culture and the world was changing. So it was just a very interesting time, especially in Tampa Bay as a whole

Jeff Sterns  2:54  
well, and the brands, Sean the brands, I mean, now that I'm thinking about it, right at that time, when we got together, Cadillac came out with the cutera that later became the CTS and the Cadillac that Ziggs. And even though that may or may not have been the greatest campaign idea, or you know, slogan idea in the world, they were saying this is a different Cadillac, they were trying to trying to break the mold. And Land Rover had gone through a little transition to because Land Rover, of course, was owned by the original parent, and then BMW took them. And then Ford took them and I may have that out of order. And then of course, later after you and I did this project together, it was the Indian Tata company that took Land Rover, and Jaguar, and kind of really put both of them on the map, they've done a great job for a net for aspirational vehicles. But Cadillac and Land Rover, were both struggling a little bit with identity, quality concerns. And you know, you'd mentioned like this alternative lifestyle, so we can talk about the nightclub crowd.

Unknown Speaker  4:02  
Well, it was it wasn't really the nightclub plowed as much as it was the actual scene stirs right. These were the new soon to be hipsters, right, what took over, you know, parts of Brooklyn, and in the late 90s, and these were the hipsters and these were the people that were in the art scene and the music scene and, you know, got to remember the whole world was changing the birth of different Bourbons, and, you know, culturally, you know, it's almost like it was almost like a resurgence of, you know, the, you know, the liquor industry, and there was so many things happening with entertainment and digital media was coming online, and, you know, all of that just incredible changes that were taking place, from that, you know, early 90s into the time that we're talking about, which was, you know, in 96 and 97. And, you know, I think when we shot that it was right at that 97 right, if I'm not mistaken. 1997 is what we're talking about

Jeff Sterns  4:56  
99 discovery

Unknown Speaker  4:57  
99 Yeah. So very Very interesting time 99 but it was coming out of that timeframe. And, you know, really in that mid 90s is really where a lot of the work culminated into that campaign. And with the influencers that were in that campaign, the Tampa Bay influencers, so to speak, at the scene stores, the hipsters, and some of them went out to do some great things. And, you know, some of them were signed in, you know, record deals with Columbia Records and toured with the Goo Dolls and others were, you know, influencers in the scene to your point, which was that nightclub scene, it was really basically a music scene, right? That's really what was happening outside of the live music scene and Tampa Bay, which was really rich in that time frame. You also had none of that. Remember, we had bands getting signed all over Florida, and you know, that were blown up from matchbox 20 to, you know, creed. You know, even Marilyn Manson. I mean, it was just Florida was rich.

Jeff Sterns  5:57  
Oh, and what was going on geographically in St. Petersburg specifically?

Unknown Speaker  6:02  
Yeah, pretty interesting, right? This little hotbed of culture so and art so it was really a scene that went way beyond I think, the bar scene and that's where a lot of the that's where the actual you know, the models for the ads be influenced for the ads were picked, were picked were from that scene, you know, the music scene, the art scene.

Jeff Sterns  6:21  
So let's talk about them like one at a time as we'll have them on the screen. So and let's leave our you know, the Coupe de resistance for last. So my brother, Michael, was working for you,

Unknown Speaker  6:37  
Michael had entertained working for me for a short period of time, and I think basically sat in on the office and got to hear what we did working with car dealers around the country. And I think made a couple of visits in some outside of you his brother, and quickly immediately teed somebody else up, and kind of like a shuck and jive move was like, Hey, listen, I don't think I'm going to take the job. However, I got somebody perfect for you. And that was his way of kind of handing off, you know, the position to somebody else. Once he realized that we were in this crazy car dealer world, I don't think that was really his choice. But Michael did introduce me to you. That's, that's how I met you. And, and ultimately, you were his first customer. We did some targeted direct mail, which was our core, one of our core competencies at the time at the agency that led into our great relationship and coming to see you in person and learning about what your goals were and what your challenges were and what you needed to do, to basically shake the mansion up and to get a new breed of customer in there. And that's what you charged me with, I left that I I'll never forget coming into the office, and we were gonna had the male's great and it worked. And it's always gonna work. And we're always gonna get you know, that two and a half 3% response, we're gonna sell a handful of cars from it. It was like, but that's not going to solve the problem. And you left me with, you know, you sent me out the door saying, hey, figure that out. And I'll be interested in doing something but I don't need any more mail. Right. That's basically what it came down to. And I need something more than that. And I went to the as we say, the lab,

Jeff Sterns  8:13  
well, in Michael over solden. Well, I don't want to say Michael oversold me on you. But when my brother says I'm working with this guy, Shawn. Look, I'd been in the car business, I was already a veteran. I was the GSM and a Cadillac dealership. At this point, I'd seen direct mail, you know, everyone watching this, whether they're in the car business or not as gotten their mailbox stuff with direct mail. But what I really wanted was something different. And I told Mike and he goes, listen, I really think this Shawn this guy, Sean can do it. And I let you know, Sean, I can't have everyone whispering in this mansion and thinking that it's not cool to come into I want it to feel like a casino atmosphere. When people coming in. I want it to feel like people winning. I want it to be inviting and I want it to be inviting to everyone besides a devil buyer. Not that we weren't grateful to have the devil business. But yeah, we already had the devil buyer playing bingo on the church, bingo machine out in the service drive. And God bless those customers. We needed them. They were our bread and butter

Unknown Speaker  9:16  
you had the vision you have to get we have to grow with a new audience. Right? If the older audience is, you know, in essence dying off, right? That's the reality of it. They're they're getting older, as we used to say in the media business, right? The radio business, they're falling off the dial that you know certain age, they stopped listening to rate, right. It's just the reality consumers age out. And we have a we have an LTV of a customer, but the reality is, is we have to pick up these new customers and we have to find new, the new audience, right. And that's something that you had the vision to see is how do we get them in here? We have a product line that may not necessarily be so appealing the caetera and the caddy that Zig campaign was just bubbling was just gotten to come out. It was it was not Really resonating the way it was supposed to wasn't getting people into the store because it was kind of like a contrived way to be cool. And it wasn't resonating with Gen Xers at all. It was just very GM, right Madison Avenue, just very vanilla. And it just didn't connect with the audience. And maybe because the influencer thing had not really been born yet, but we were doing street marketing and we had our finger on the pulse of the markets. And we were out there in real street marketing teams, applying this kind of influencer marketing back in the 90s. And we were using it from a from a street marketing standpoint, and it was doing intercepts and and and using influencers in marketplaces that would influence based on usage of a product. We were doing that in the Reno market with the wincle group. And that was something that we were really big on. And we thought that we thought that we could carry it over for you when we when we have the orders and all that you take over from there.

Jeff Sterns  10:57  
Well, don't you? Well, you came up with this idea. And I gotta tell you like what was going on internally? I did a lot of this when I was there is how am I going to get this past my owner? And let's just do it anyway. Because I don't think my owners gonna go for this. So you came in, you know, a little bit like Darren from bewitched, with the storyboard of you know, here's the idea. And it really blew us away. So as these slides are on the screen as these images are on the screen, let's talk about the first one. What's the first one you want to talk about?

Unknown Speaker  11:32  
Well, I think the first one is really the first set was before the entry of the male leather optional. So you got to start with really how it started and the storyboards were and we'll start with number one, the female version of leather optional, which we've which we Yep, and the first ad this individual who this influencer was you know in the hair was in the hair industry was very just well known in the marketplace in an influencer family is in essence influencers on the on the fishing and the construction side. So these were just very well known young people in the marketplace. But this particular individual nakki, who is still today, an incredible influencer in Brooklyn, and in the hair industry agreed to do this shoot. And she immediately loved the idea of the leather optional concept. And of course, it tied into the vehicle. So it was a perfect way to cut and make this car that just wasn't cool, right? They say you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still not. Well, it might still be cute, but there was nothing we could do with the cutera. To make it even cute. It just wasn't even a catchy little tagline like they had, which we were just knew was a big turn off. So that was the one of the first and most important parts of the ad was that leather optional. And to be able to kind of just grab people's attention with something that would be somewhat shocking. And remembered also in Tampa Bay, there was a very big culture of alternative lifestyle. And to this day, there is still conventions here for you know, what would be more more apt to using you know, leather and check whips and dips and chips and all that fun stuff. So this stuff was kind of relevant for Tampa Bay to it wasn't just like shocking, because a girl had leather and it was leather optional, and it grabbed your attention like a good ad should do. But it allowed us to have a series of these that made it fun and made it funny, right? Which was also then the second part of that storyboard, which none of these were obviously shot they were just drawn out on a storyboard. And was the plenty of leg room which was this bride this groom she's pulling him into which at the time was the Land Rover, which did not really have right you can explain more as that as the GSM Jeff of Land Rover at the time. The challenges Land Rover

Jeff Sterns  13:52  
at the time I mean in Land Rover still have the reputation for little snuggles you know being in English car. How do you you know what's the problem with a Land Rover when you don't see oil underneath it? You know? It means it's empty. Right? Why don't the English make computers because they can't make them leak?

Unknown Speaker  14:12  
Did you guys actually have like, like the best jokes about Land Rovers at the time?

Jeff Sterns  14:18  
Well, I mean, I later later got into roles in Bentley so it was definitely always an English car thing. My my Bentley rep God rest his soul. Rodney, just love him to death. Scottish guy says it's Sutter. It's not the leak. It's a location of lubrication problem. straight face to a customer. The Land Rover is English. So it was quirky. There were people that loved it because of what it was. It was unbelievable. offroad like nothing like it. And if you recall, we had a couple of acre land rover test track out back to get it stuck and winch it out and whatever degree breakover angle Inside angles and whatever, and with the center of gravity, etc, etc. But it did not have plenty of leg room, all the things you'll do in Tampa Bay, by the way, with a Land Rover, everything, everything and everything that the hipsters and you know, let's say, you know, I gotta be politically correct because I'm always politically correct on these podcasts. But let's say Hmm, who would like to drive those? Let's see, they might like Disney like me Otto's they like me. And they like their landrovers and I can tell you that I did increase the gay you did increase the gay when my ad came up. Finally, we got a little bit in there. And it was funny because a couple of times, you know, we're not on to my ad yet, boom. When we got to the one that I was in just a few time someone would be like, while I'm trying to close them on payment or something would be like, hey, you in that ad, and it was fun. I mean, it was definitely fun. I want to wait until we get to that ad but we're now at the leather optional I'm sure we're now at the plenty of leg room. And you're asking describe that card had no frickin leg room it was it was a giant exterior with a tall roof. And I guess it was an engineering problem because inside it had nothing

Unknown Speaker  16:23  
but we want to do appeal to that SUV that crossover right? It wasn't about riding the rocks. It wasn't about you know you can you got a winch that can pull. Right this was about driving around Tampa Bay and going and go right this was about appealing to the soccer moms of that time and and not only the soccer moms but ultimately the hipsters that everybody else in the Tampa Bay area. That would be what we're more interested in those SUVs and and what was burgeoning as that SUVs rich SUV market.

Jeff Sterns  16:54  
Well, Shawn, I mean, I got to interrupt because there was a little bit of an off road culture in Tampa Bay. So right after I joined as general sales manager, that dealership, I think it was a fourth of July or was certainly around then I end up visiting a buddy of mine, Chris Warren at his new house and he had a retention pond behind the house. And I've been I've been to the Landrover driving school and we got the rock out front that we got to caulk sideways. So I know the things invincible ISIS, he goes, is this your new demo, I'm like now I just wanted to drive it over cuz you got this retention pond out back, I'm going to show you something. So I go driving around the side of his house and around his birdcage pulling everything around the back, get it all in between the trees and whatever, fold the mirrors in. So I get it there and I drive it down, super sharp angle, the side of this retention pond, and like touch the front bumper to the water and throw it in reverse. And I get out of it. And everyone's like wow, that looked a little scary. That's nothing watch this. Take it down a little further. halfway up the grill. Back it up the thing you know, like, like a bulldog backing up, goes right out ever like oh my god I says it didn't really feel like a lot of effort. Let me try it again. I go down a little deeper and drink water, motor drinks water, we end up getting to tow trucks where they both had to hook their cables up to it in the backyard to pull the thing out. And I'm like my second week on the job and I ingested water into an engine like mothball an engine and a brand new so there was a big off road underground going on but the big question is why three times the two times wasn't enough because I got out the first I had to go a little further down. I'm Jeff Sterns, my drug of choice is more

Unknown Speaker  18:52  
Yeah, it's just give me another one. They were all in on the first one right you can sell for from the first one.

Jeff Sterns  19:00  
Right? I lost them all. I talked way faster clothes are way past the closer though. But your ad campaign was genius. Because late you know right now everyone has an SUV or a crossover. I mean, almost no passenger car sell anymore compared to SUVs and crossovers. But at that time, an SUV was kind of novel. I mean, it was that it was an explorer. I mean that was it. Just a few Escalades wasn't out yet. I mean, there was nothing like that. And you're actually putting a little spotlight on that. And if I recall, the newspaper came out weekly, and you ran 12 weeks, I think everything ran three times or something, right, except the one bonus ad.

Unknown Speaker  19:45  
It did. And each week there was a new a new ad running. So it built that it kept the story in the theme going, and then the third week, and Yes, it did. It did actually put a highlight on that and we were looking to focus on the utility And the soccer mom and the hipster. And hey, this is uh, this is this is a vehicle again, you know that we position what the plenty of leg room

Jeff Sterns  20:08  
well and you have plenty of leg room and my own or we didn't tell anything about it and once he came down and it was like oh my god, what are you doing? And I'm like, Well listen, we're locked into the agreement the contract we can't stop it now. And he's like, but do you know what leg room What leg me?

Unknown Speaker  20:26  
We sure do. I mean, it is a bride and a groom. You know, as we can see, we made sure it was politically correct. It's a bride and groom. They're, they're so excited about each other. They can't wait to get into their brand new Land Rover, by the way from Tim it. I mean, how cool is that? To be able to consummate the marriage. I mean, how fantastic and what a great

Jeff Sterns  20:48  
it's not about political correctness. Shawn, it was moral.

Unknown Speaker  20:51  
Yes, I get it, you know, like, that's all of a sudden, something we shouldn't be doing. But the good news is, is that, that that ad with the plenty of leg room, you know, I think also related to a different audience, in addition to the leather optional, right, starting with the weak one that was kind of grabs your attention, and really just, you know, shook the market up, which it did and created a lot of talk value leading up to that more softer that now is the more normalized family, right? The mid 90s, the mid 90s family, young family just getting married and by the way, two very important influencers but one mainly Billy wells, who's in that he's toured with the Goo Goo Dolls was in a band called Ben Berner signed to Columbia Records. And he was an influencer and very well known, even to this day, produced by Matt Wallace, who did faith no more and Maroon five and just a really incredible artist and influencer in the Tampa Bay area, especially at that time. So Billy, and then Rachel, who is a designer from Parsons, who was in that ad, and also in the scene, as as, as you call it,

Jeff Sterns  21:57  
and were you in the music business, then john, when he signed to Columbia,

Unknown Speaker  22:00  
I did so when I was running the what became big gross, which was a traditional agency and we flipped it to take advantage of in 98 right when we were doing this, we were kind of transitioning the company into But it was a traditional agency focused on direct response originally and, and one of my side Yes, one of my side ventures was I was a founder and an ambassador on a record label that record labels called stainless and it ran alongside of the agency that was kind of like the hobby You know, that's what I did for fun I didn't play golf and I didn't you know, play cards that was what I was into right and and that was a really incredible you know, expos and marketing and what we were able to accomplish with mp3 dot com the early days of mp3 that's a whole different so we'll do a different show on that but Billy was a part of that and we were the literally 990 1000 downloads of of one of his tracks at that time to put us on the put us in Rolling Stone magazine article business 2.0 is a really great time so he was in that ad and I picked him purposely He was tall and good looking and we made him look a little bit less rockstars you could tell and just look look like the good get the good looking guy next door the South Tampa guy making, you know making that six figures that wants to flex and show off that very cool, you know, urban assault vehicle with his beautiful wife. So, you know, sex and rock and roll right so far as what we're what we're accomplishing and also the standards of society. So we're kind of touching on everybody there. So the third ad was using an influencer in the area who was really big or named was Roxanne x kabbalists. So we got Billy wells and add to and Rachel at Rachel Meyers and then naki Karcher and the first one and then the third ad was was Roxanne Savalas. And she worked at the at Red Star, which is a very popular art infused nightclub and acid top jazz and she was an influencer in the art culture and worked at was a writer and a really great writer for the week for the creative loafing weekly planet. A really great writer and wrote great, great stories and you're still a writer to this day, but Roxanne, who had this incredible hair as you can say, and there was a no brainer, it was like look, you know, plenty of headroom and that was the perfect thing to be able to use Roxanne for with that funky, you know, 90s that whole dance music scene and that just beautiful big Mediterranean hair. You know, just it was perfect and it just all came together and from the storyboard to what it what it was like when it got shot and and i think that that ad was able to relate to again females and and be able to really talk to young females in a different way about vehicles that they normally may never looked at

Jeff Sterns  24:52  
Shawn but you got to understand an audience you got to understand we're in this Cadillac dealership that up till now has really just Cadillac in the traditional Cadillac customer, from their, you know, kind of high end retirement communities and urban buying there for 40 years. And I was really skeptical when my brother introduced me to you because I'm like, Hey, what are we going to get out of this little weekend rag that you look at? to see which restaurant to go to? Or, or who's got what band where or in the very, very back the whatever, seeking whatever ads, you know, in the band, I'm like, are we even gonna get anything but the beautiful thing about these ads? I mean, like, I like anything fun. And I like a little stick. And I like to be edgy, no doubt. So when you are showing them to me, I'm like, My God, what talent, but I was thinking, how are we going to get anywhere in this rag. And when these were coming out, I couldn't go anywhere without someone bringing one up, because they were plenty of headroom. I mean, it was so edgy, for a Cadillac dealership, in Clearwater, Florida. Not a Cadillac dealership in LA, a Cadillac dealership in Clearwater, Florida. Not San Fran not New York.

Unknown Speaker  26:07  
So you got to remember though, Jeff, one of the things it wasn't just what you want to do accomplish in the vision that hey, I can I want to go after a different audience. We got to find a new way to sell new, you know, sell these new cars to younger people, build a new audience. And that next cost next 1020 years of customer. So the one of the things why you guys, if you remember in that storyboard, there was also the data, the demographics of and the readership of what was happening in those magazines. They were really substantial, those weeklies and it was tapping a whole nother audience that you guys were missing. And it was audited, and it was documented of what those numbers were. And that's why you guys like oh, this, this does make sense. Because on paper, the numbers were stronger than then even, you know, the times when it came to right or that the time the tribune as well, you had both of them. You know, you had to competitive Bay papers,

Jeff Sterns  27:01  
if you're not local. And Shawn, remember, we're not just talking to local people on the show. Not only are we all over the United States, but our number two download is not even Canada. I think it's France. So the St. Petersburg Times, or the Tampa Tribune? That's it. Those were your two. Those are newspapers, which the young people like frickin new. How old are these frickin guys newspaper?

Unknown Speaker  27:27  
Yeah. And then they weren't reading the newspaper, just like what happened with that that's a trend that did not stop, right. And they were looking for alternative sources of content. And the internet was they're now giving them that right, it's 99. So think about how much content people had access to now. And really, the world had changed greatly. By the time that we did these ads, as far as that younger Gen X that was that was basically consuming content differently. They adopted they adopted technology a lot faster than their, their generation before them their parents, right? You know, and they were right there at this major boom of the internet. So the numbers in those magazines or those weekly, those weeklies were really strong. I can't remember exactly. And I hope I'm not wrong. But I actually can remember, I think somewhere in the tune of, I think the average income might have been 60 plus $1,000. And of the average regular of of it at the time, and it was just the numbers were really solid. And then when you broke down what the psychographics were of that readership and those demos, it was really just like, yeah, these are those people that we want. And by the way, I mean, they were thick. I mean, they were loaded in advertising and loaded in all of the best local, I'm not so good. But but the majority and and the and the big box stores and different types of national retailers are starting to put money in those papers at the time, if you remember. So it also gave me It gave you guys a little more confidence there too. Because you weren't the only you were the only dealer that had cracked the code, especially from a Highline dealer standpoint, you were the only dealer that cracked the code and did anything like that before so that was a first but the reality of it is is that you know other fortune 1000 brands and started to sniff around and advertising the weeklies at that point. And then that series which was very successful and and was launched then spawned the fourth ad which was which was like an add on which was great because by this time I believe you know the excitement, the enthusiasm again, I'll share the some of the some of the we'll call it small minded pushback and ignorance that that you encountered, getting hit with birdshot and stones and essence for something that really did accomplish what it was supposed to but before we got there, you know you I believe if I recall because one of the things that was great too is that the shoe we did really was a great We did Todd Bates who was the creative director, or at the time, I think the head photographer and then became the creative director of the creative loafing, I think to this day still involved, could follow him on Instagram, Todd's an incredible artist, as well works with major companies and has produced just incredible, incredible photography and digital art, just great creative direction. And he was the guy who shot the first set of ads. And we had to bring in a different photographer, the second set, he wasn't available, I think Dave Monroe, who you went to his studio, if you remember, and in Clearwater, actually. But when we brought you in to do that, shoot, you had now kind of felt the enthusiasm of the market. And like you said, you everywhere you went, you were hearing things, and people were talking to you about it. And you know, if people are talking about something, right, the old saying, if they're talking about it, right, as long as they spell your name, right, good or bad, they're talking about, and good or bad, they were talking about it, and that's what was happening. And you saw that, um, you know, from a standpoint, I'll let you talk about what you saw on the store and what that translated to but, but you wanted, we wanted to do another ad, and that next ad was going to be you. So I don't know if you want to talk about that and how that all came together.

Jeff Sterns  31:17  
Well, and I think I mean, this is going back, but I think it was your idea. Why don't we put you in one.

Unknown Speaker  31:23  
Well, actually, you told me that I don't know that the leather chaps right, the leather. Where did those come from?

Jeff Sterns  31:31  
I think they were in the studio when I walked in.

Unknown Speaker  31:33  
They were they were they were part of the props. Okay. I wasn't sure if you had told me that you had a pair of leather pants. Oh, no, I told you that I had a pair of leather.

Jeff Sterns  31:40  
No, no, no, no, no. No. So I mean, outside of my new modeling career, I was very, very conservative. Wife, kid on the way white picket fence to Labrador Retrievers, Republican

Unknown Speaker  31:58  
and fitness. And you guys were very fit. And and it right? Yes, you guys fitness was a very good, a very important thing. I know that it happened very organically. It happened naturally in a conversation. And it happened very quickly. And then we did the shoe,

Jeff Sterns  32:13  
I think I think you said do you want to do one and we'll replace the leather optional girl with the whip with you. And of course, I'm in on any practical joke or stick no matter what. And I told nobody in the dealership, I told nobody. I told no bosses, I told no. co workers, and you just told me where to be in Clearwater. And I show up. And all of a sudden, I feel like a movie star because there's a little makeup. And you're and you're putting this these clothes on me this leather vest. And I remember you put all these clips to make it fit down the back. Yeah, clothes, pins or whatever. They were

Unknown Speaker  32:47  
one of the things too that was going on. And you know, again, we'd have to go back and look through the watermark at the time. But I know that we were going to tap, you know, the LBGT community at the time. And the reality of it is is that that was one of the main drivers was that we wanted to tap into the market. And we were going to use you in that effort. We were going to run the campaign now your your campaign specifically in watermark. And there was also something timely, like some big event or something. I'm not sure if it was pride or what was going on Jeff, but we were tying into this some type of event culturally that was taking place that watermark and we ended up just moving forward with that. And so I know this what is watermark mean? at which it's still out today watermark is a LGBT weekly or monthly publication at the time.

Jeff Sterns  33:42  
What's LBGT lesbian gay? trans? Well, thanks use me.

Unknown Speaker  33:46  
I live in by car but I'm not insane. LGBT. Yeah. Sorry. Yeah. Didn't mean to mess that up. But yeah, LGBT. I don't even know if they had all of that at the time. It might have just been LG B. I swear I'm not I'm not being funny. I'm pretty confident that in 1999, I think it was LGB.

Jeff Sterns  34:09  
I think the only trans that anyone knew about was in crying game at that time.

Unknown Speaker  34:14  
Yeah. Well, the reality is that it was a great opportunity to introduce and if you remember, this is very important. So if you remember, we were also working with somebody who was a very big influencer and a big voice in the gay community. His name is Sterling Powell and he's still here today. Sterling was an incredible artist. He worked with the city he still works with the city to this day curating all their art and everything. But Sterling, if you remember we were doing and Sterling was really like a caricature Sterling Paul was a character, a caricature of himself. And it was this you know, you know, this incredible abstract blend of Dolly meets. You know, this, john, what meets right it was beats beats Jeff, who is the character behind Sterling? Because he's a wonderful guy.

Jeff Sterns  35:06  
And we'll put a picture of Sterling up here. I met Sterling a few times through Michael, are you you know, different events.

Unknown Speaker  35:13  
What if you remember Sterling remembers this if he watches this, we'll make sure we send it to him. Sterling. Actually, you are going to go forward with it, we were going to make Sterling a basically like basically a represent we were going to give him a demo potentially. And he was gonna

Jeff Sterns  35:30  
he was in the store for some reason now he's gonna do Yeah, he was

Unknown Speaker  35:33  
gonna be like an ambassador. And basically, to you know, it wasn't a good fit for you guys. I think you guys got a little bit of cold feet, you probably got a hard now upstairs, but because he's very flamboyant. But he he was an incredible advocate for AIDS. And he was one of the first people in Florida on the cocktail that saved his life, and was a was an incredible mouthpiece and advocate for AIDS. And, you know, gay men affected, inflicted with AIDS that were suffering. And to this day, he's an incredible testament. So what was so magical about this campaign was really the people. It was the people that are in these ads, that we're real influencers in this market area that allows you to tap a market and connect with an audience, by the way, many audiences not just one, many audiences across not just the bay but a region because that that thing covered a region in essence, right, even though that magazine, it covered a region. And that's what made it so special to photographers, Todd Bates, Dave Monroe on the second ad for you, which was history, right? That's why we're here today. You called me cuz Hey, people are still to this day bringing it up. Somebody had I think I saw your podcast, you know, they had a baby because of the the ad with Phil. That's

Jeff Sterns  36:53  
right. That's right.

Unknown Speaker  36:54  
I mean, that I mean, it's flattering To me, it's humbling. It's but it's, it's what the magic of that campaign was it was the it was everything to photographers, I remember the girls who did the makeup, I think it was star was the star makeup was the name of it, or something along I can't I can't remember all this because the characters were so rich and colorful, off camera, as well as on camera. And I have actual backstage shots, Jeff, I'll send over to you. I still have to this day of backstage like with all of us, the models and everything. shot with the photographer, I don't know who took the picture might have been you, somebody took the picture. But still to this day have that picture. And it was really that was the power and the magic in that campaign. It was the people it was it was who they were and what they were when the camera wasn't on them when they were influencing and just being themselves and being creative types and influencers in a market area. And when all that came together, coupled with, you know, what was happening in society, in media, and digital and advertising and the early stages of influencers, which was really this not just the US, but there was a lot of what we see today was starting to really bubble under at the time. So really, really exciting and really energizing to have this conversation that is for sure

Jeff Sterns  38:18  
that ad is 99. So here we are 22 ish, years later, and it still comes up. I don't like for example, I'm a VP of sales for chat, lead car chat, RV chat, boat, chat, legal ship. So I don't meet a new client and say, by the way, did you know I was in this ad 20 years ago. But from time to time, I'll have somebody that I introduce to one of my clients or we share a client, and that person will email or text them a picture of this ad to say, Do you know who you're dealing with, and this has happened, you know, not every day, half a dozen times in the last few years. And now the customer will be like, you did that ad and now we're on a whole new rapport level, this 20 year old ad is just as a point of reference, that's all and back then when it happened. So how my life changed when that happened to me it was just like, how can I say no, that's fun, too. Let's go the shoot not tell anybody and I'm going to show up in this alternative lifestyle brag, you know, weekly, and how can I not enjoy that? Well what happened that I didn't know I walk in on whatever day it comes out. I walk in on the Monday or whatever day after and we had a 34 give or take Bay shop. So we had 34 sets of toolboxes out there if there weren't 25 to 30 toolboxes with my picture taped up next to the snap on calendar girl kiss your ass. I go get a haircut. God bless Ron Murphy. He's still alive. I'll have to send them this show. I go to get a haircut. There it is on his wall framed next to all of his celebrity autographed, whatever, you know, in magicians and you know, all that business that we're in a shop. My poor father and I was telling you this earlier, I, you know, how old would he have been? So right now, he would be 80 ish. That was 20 years ago. So 60 years. Okay, so probably his 60th birthday that we threw at his house, we threw a surprise party at his own house. So he walked in, everyone's waiting. I didn't orchestrate any of this. But as he's opening gifts, probably 20 of them. And I'm not exaggerating, and it might have been 2320 of them are framed pictures, but this is already a year or two ago. You know, so he's opening it, like another one. Another one. They all thought like, you know, the poor father, like, that's embarrassed because he's got the, you know, the leather optional with the whip, or whatever it is, yeah, I got the son out there. So anyway, my son, who we call it the basement in our house, we live in a stilt house, but we call it the basement. So that's the rec room, party room, whatever. That's, we also we call it Wu Han to because as soon as COVID hit and school let out, he was in a senior year school. There is nevertheless ever since the day school stopped because it COVID five to 15 kids in that basement every day of our life, you know, since they have but that's all you know, with all their party stuff. The fell off the pole street signs that are on the wall, you know, all this stuff they've got down there, they're Jose clairvaux thing where there's that ad up on the wall. So my 19 year old son, I'm like, whatever party icon, you know, for all the kids they toast or I mean, they're 19. So of course they're not drinking, but that's their party icon. So that's that add brother, thanks to your creativity is an absolute point of reference. And I think my wife, you know how like, sometimes if you're with someone, many, many, many years, and you think of that they were the prom queen. So how, however, they might look now gained a few pounds, whatever. You still always remember Hey, man, she was the prom queen. Like she was the one. My wife wasn't around, then. Yes, she was born. Not very old. I think that she honestly looks at that picture and says, hey, my, my husband was that hot one. Now, now, the only bad thing about it. And I mean, this is something that you can understand that like people like us, the handicap that we have the the cross we have to bear is sometimes when you're that good looking. People just don't think you're intelligent. That's right. Shawn. Mara, I can't tell you how happy I am that you join me today. I mean, my God, we go back so long. For me. It was a fabulous conversation. And if this is the excuse, yeah, this is the excuse I gotta use to be able to have a conversation once, because we're never just gonna call each other and talk for an hour. Otherwise,

Unknown Speaker  43:08  
yeah, can we put it on a podcast? That's what you're saying? Can I do this on a podcast? Because if someone calls me it's like, Do you need something? That's it, man. This is perfect. I'm

Jeff Sterns  43:15  
in your living room. Right? I don't look, I don't just visit with people. Unless it's on a podcast. You're in

Unknown Speaker  43:20  
my living room. I know. It's a fireside chat concept. I love it. It was great. This is awesome. Jeff, you are. Listen, you are a visionary. This doesn't exist without you. It didn't exist without your budget without your without you writing the check from the demat family trust, making it happen. So you are equally as important and it without you. It doesn't happen. It's great to do. I'm honored that I can even talk about this. This meant a year later. We felt special about it then I feel even more special about it today. And I look forward to sharing it with everybody that I'm still in contact with that actually made it happen. So hey, thanks for bringing it back to life.

Unknown Speaker  43:59  
This has been Jeff Sterns connected through cars

Transcribed by

Sean MarraProfile Photo

Sean Marra


25 years of Automotive Data, AdTech, and Marketing innovation and invention.