Promotional Campaigns and Social Media Virality

Recently, a car dealership from a small town in Minnesota, which was known among the locals for its interesting commercials, ended up receiving some help for its latest TV ad. The help came directly from the writers of HBO’s show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The store in question, called Zumbrota Ford, ended up getting featured on the weekly late-night show back in June, during a segment where John Oliver talked about different car dealerships all using the same advertising company for their TV ad scripts.

The result of that was a number of different car dealerships putting out the same or very similar TV ads. Those ads included an employee from the dealership dressed as a pickle and talking about the health issues they had until they got a new car. To end the segment, Oliver offered the dealerships a one-of-a-kind script that was written by the team of writers working at HBO’s Last Week Tonight. The car dealerships would receive the script for free, as long as the company agreed to produce the TV commercial before it got a chance to read the script.

It was Zumbrota Ford that accepted the condition and ended up receiving the script and getting the chance to record a 90-second TV commercial.

The script from the HBO writers included a plot regarding a failing marriage, and ended with the owner of the car dealership appearing dressed as a pickle, in a tribute to the original ads that had been aired by multiple car dealerships.

Not only that, but once the ad started airing in Minnesota, it was also uploaded on the Last Week Tonight YouTube channel in a separate segment as a web exclusive, and received an additional promotion with a bigger audience. The video managed to generate over 3 million views in the week after it was uploaded.

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The entire campaign also drew the attention of the CEO of Ford, Jum Farley, as he talked about the video on his own Twitter profile. According to the owner of the car dealership, Steve Johnson, the company has been experiencing an incredible increase in sales after the ad started to air. In fact, he said that the company has been getting leads both via phone as well as online, as people all over Minnesota have started reaching out to the dealership to get more information on their cars.

Furthermore, according to Johnson, most of the car dealerships in the area typically used the same local TV station in Minnesota to film their commercials, and most of them also used the same ad company.

He also admitted that he had never heard of the popular HBO show before the segment, but his godson had reached out to him, letting him know that the dealership had been featured in an episode and to contact the staff.

While Johnson wasn’t excited when he first saw the script, he’s been very happy with the results, as he managed to create an ad that went viral online.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.