Sports fans who spend enough time watching or listening to their team’s games are not just well-acquainted with the players on that team. Thanks to those home team broadcasts, sports fans also wind up well acquainted with ads for local businesses, and the local business owners who insist on making themselves the stars of those ads. I will never forget the run of success that the Philadelphia Phillies enjoyed a decade-plus ago, with the team winning five division titles, two pennants, and a World Series. Yet I cannot think of those days without also thinking about a pizza place that ran an ad during Phillies games that featured a penguin reporter, and which was also a parody of the Aflac duck; the ad’s main message, and the penguin reporter’s big story, was that the original owner of Not Just Pizza has returned. “Sal’s back,” the penguin said. (It was not explained where Sal was back from; everyone just assumed the worst.) Another commercial for a place called Steak ’Em Up used a parody Cars jingle, and later featured a full cinematic universe with parodies of the “Wassup” guys and an ad with a fake Al Pacino. (A fun fact: Steak-umms sued Steak ’Em Up for copyright infringement, and lost.)
But no local sports advertiser, in basically any market, is on the air quite as relentlessly as car dealers. Car dealership ads run the gamut from low-budget infomercial-level dreck to ads that appear to have been worked on by actual advertising agencies; they are ubiquitous during sporting events. Many have little jingles. “Cher-ry Hill Nissssssssan,” my brain will sing when I’m trying to finish an overdue article. “The frrrrrriendly Nissan giiiiiiiiii-ant!” The Cherry Hill Nissan Giant even has a personification. It’s sort of a cross between the Green Giant and Superman.
But most car dealerships don’t advertise with a weird superhero giant. They generally just show the owner or president of the dealership telling you what a great experience you’ll have buying a car there. They will tell you what great people work there. Sometimes they will even tell you what a great person the car dealership owner himself is. Occasionally there is a hint to the charity work the dealership has done. Gary Barbera, who owns one on Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philly, frequently advertises his company by plastering ads around the city about the Gary Barbera Charitable Foundation. The ads are often incongruous; for a while Center City’s trashcans had ads on them noting Barbera’s support of the Northeast Philadelphia and Roxborough YMCAs, which were miles away. Of course, Barbera also has a guy in a bear costume and a slogan that doesn’t quite flow all that well (“Is Barbera the best?! Boy, I guess!”). He hits all the angles. To stand out from the competition, when there is this much competition, you have to.
When I was 20, I interned at the Bucks County Courier Times. The first story I did was about who local high school students thought was going to win American Idol that evening. (Ruben Studdard beat Clay Aiken; my story ran on the front page.) My second story was about Todd Buch, a dealership owner who once dressed up as all four Wizard of Oz protagonists for an ad. I knew who he was already. Somehow in our conversation it came up how often he’s recognized while out; he said it happened a lot, and I believed him. Buch eventually sold his dealership to Fred Beans, a guy who is best known for having the name Fred Beans.
The point is that all these guys are on TV all the time. They’re local celebrities, and this is especially true in Philadelphia, a city that has long paced the country in the Creating Local Celebrities field. And while Sunday night’s Sixers win was a nationally televised game, it was one of these local celebrities who transcended his usual prominent role during Sixers broadcasts and became a player in the national one. Here is David Kelleher of David Auto.
Almost instantly, people recognized him online as “David Dodge,” the man who is always selling autos in soft-focus ads on television. On the upside for him, I couldn’t find a clip of him saying, “You shouldn’t sleep on this deal!” Rip Caravan Winkle later confirmed it was indeed him fast asleep at courtside.
Kelleher, interviewed on KYW Newsradio this morning, said that “there’s been a lot of positive feedback” about his courtside nap, adding, “This is unprecedented.” Though he was seen stumbling off into the basement concourse at the arena, Kelleher pointedly did not blame his snooze on alcohol. His explanation was more nuanced, or anyway more complicated. A flight the previous night got in at midnight. Then he left at 7 for his daughter’s soccer game in Annapolis. He had a Mother’s Day brunch. “I did have a drink or two, but not a lot,” he said. “And I just took a cat nap.” Well, some of the beers at the arena are 25 ounces. He added that it was “a little disappointing” that Charles Barkley—“who can play with the best of ’em”—joked that he was drunk. He is charming in the way that car dealers are charming, and magnanimous in the way that local celebrities have to be, although I was a little disappointed that he uses the word “play” to mean “have a couple of drinks.” All in all, though, I can see that he had plenty of reasons to pass out and miss a little of James Harden’s 16-point fourth quarter.
Now, the real question: Will this upset Kelleher’s stans? After all, he is a local celebrity. Judging from these comments on his Facebook page, his place as a Local Charitable Car Guy is secure.
- When you work as hard as you do and give back to the community as much as you do you’re aloud to sleep wherever and whenever you want, keep doing what you’re doing
- Your a Good Man ! David Kelleher ! You treated your employees well during the pandemic & you support good causes though out The Delaware Valley! I see you on commercials what do you do ??
- Ok so here is my take
1) I “probably “ would not have dozed off like you did
2) I “definitely” haven’t helped every human being that needed it like you have
So there’s that .. lol
Game 6 of the Heat-Sixers series, now tied at two, is back in Philadelphia on Thursday. I’ll be watching the sidelines like a hawk for any sleeping car dealer owners. They should be pretty easy to recognize.