I wasn’t going to write another column about the TV commercial that I did a couple of months ago in which I spoke Spanish with English subtitles but recent developments changed my mind.
I aired the commercial on English speaking TV channels, not Hispanic. Just in case you were out of the country or were somehow totally incommunicado for the past two months, there was a hue and cry to this ad like I’ve never seen to any commercial I’ve done in my 40+ years as a car dealer. It started with lots of very negative phone calls to me and the TV channels. One TV channel, fearing controversy, initially refused to run my commercial, but recanted when I threatened them with exposing their refusal to run my ad to their competition and the FCC. The negative groundswell grew to emails and letters. I have to admit that during the first two or three weeks, I began to doubt that I was doing the right thing. Almost every call, email, or letter threatened me with boycotting my dealership. After all, I’m a car dealer and my commercial was meant to help me sell more Toyotas, not make a political statement.
The negativism grew so intense that the media picked up on it. The Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel did a feature story on this, documenting a lot of the negative ads. The Palm Beach Post followed suit with a similar story. Channel 5 TV ran several news stories. Fox News interviewed me and this was carried on the network, nationwide, as well as XM and Sirius worldwide. Magazines, the Internet chat groups, blogs, World Net Daily, YouTube, and about every other kind of media jumped on this story.
That’s when the “positive backlash” began. What I had hoped for actually came to pass. The “silent majority” that we always hear about suddenly found their voice. The average American is a good person without prejudice and has lots of common sense, but she doesn’t get motivated enough from a TV commercial to make phone calls or send emails. The average American does get motivated when she sees someone being unjustly accused of being a traitor, called vulgar names, and being threatened with boycotts to his business. These good folks rallied to my support and now I am getting a steady flow of emails, blog postings, and phone calls supporting my Hispanic TV ad. The negative comments have died off to an occasional whimper.
Ironically, my initial motivation was only to sell more Toyotas. Not only did I do this [Last month I sold 375 new Toyotas, one of the best months in my 32 years as a Toyota dealer], but I got a bonus. That was a much better understanding of what makes us Americans tick. Don’t get me wrong. I was always proud to be an American, but after so many people sprang to my defense, after I was so viciously attached because of my Hispanic TV commercial, I was even more proud. Americans like to root for the underdog and they believe in standing up for what’s right. When they saw me being piled on by a bunch of nuts and bigots (not all of them were of this ilk; a few were simply uninformed or misunderstood my ad). 99% of Americans understand that we are all immigrants; we only differ in how long ago we, our parents, grandparents, et al were fortunate enough to find sanctuary in the land of the free and the home of the brave.