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My worldly colleague David Roth jokingly predicted on The Distraction podcast this week that Mac McClung, as a reward for his dunk contest win, could do “an Eastern Motors ad.” That’s a Washington D.C. area used car chain whose commercials began dominating the airwaves in the market around the turn of this century. Roth’s mention inspired recollections of the ads in Defector Slack channels. Days earlier, I had seen a spot for the chain for the first time in maybe a decade. Put all this together and now the song and its refrain—"At Eastern Motors, your job’s your credit!"—is in heavy rotation in my head.

Just like old times. 

Nobody pays attention to or even sits through commercials anymore except during the Super Bowl. Shows and movies are no longer consumed on broadcast stations and music isn’t listened to on the radio. But there was a time, beginning early in the century, when damn near everybody inside the Beltway—like, literally damn near everybody—not only was aware of the Eastern Motors jingle but could recite its punchline. 

The ad campaign hit about the same time as The Economist had declared the “Death of the Jingle.” I’ve been in awe of the virality of the catchphrase and obsessed by its penetration in the Nation’s Capital ever since. 

Robert Bassam, Eastern Motors founder, was the genius behind the hit jingle. He told me in 2005 that he had been looking to get into more radio advertising and was advised by marketing professionals that he “needed to give listeners something to keep their ears warm.” 

“We’ve done that, everybody tells me,” he said.

Bassam told me he came up with some slogans, then hired Michael Richardson, an Atlanta music producer, to put them to music. According to Bassam, Richardson copped the backing track for the commercials from Shaggy’s 2002 single “Hey Sexy Lady.”

Shaggy’s “Hey sexy lady / I like your flow!” became Richardson’s “At Eastern Motors / Your job’s your credit!” 

Bassam decided early on to use D.C. athletes, mainly players for the Washington Football Team, to star in the television ads. The bulky spokesmodels would sit in swanky used cars and bounce around to the beats while mouthing the slogan. Apparently, every other expense was spared: The spots, some of which were filmed on the football field at a high school a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol building, had production values a cut above “Wayne’s World.” Nevertheless, the combination of star power and catchy jingle struck a chord.

WFT linebacker LaVar Arrington and running back Clinton Portis were the breakout stars of the campaign. They’re both remembered around these parts far more for lip syncing in the Eastern Motors commercials than for any of their sacks or runs from scrimmage. Again, the popularity of that ad campaign cannot be overstated.

Soon enough the surest sign that prized rookies or new free agent signees were part of the community was their appearance in an Eastern Motors ad. Among those who mouthed the dealership’s phrase that pays at some point: Sean Taylor, Carlos Rogers, Jason Campbell, Antwaan Randle El, Santana Moss, Alex Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Norman, and Dwayne Haskins. Bassam only occasionally ventured off the gridiron to include non-WFT spokesmodels, such as Brendan Haywood of the Wizards and Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals. (The dealership also threw a bone to Baltimore car buyers by letting Raven Ray Lewis and native son Carmelo Anthony show up in early Eastern Motors spots.)

And since I can’t get it out of my head, I’m going to try to get it into yours too. Please enjoy this period-piece ad with the viral jingle. Watch and listen a few times and then try to forget what you’ve heard. Spoiler alert: You won’t. Roth, after all, never even lived in D.C., yet heard the jingle on visits after college, and the spots for a local used car dealer left enough of an impression that he’s still referencing ‘em a couple decades later. And, even though he was joking, Roth’s onto something: Mac McClung would be a perfect fit in an Eastern Motors ad.

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