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Posted: April 2, 2010 12:01 a.m.

The appeal of an inflatable gorilla

During graduate school, I had to take a marketing course — an insipid class that I hated completely and thoroughly. Yet, despite that forced march, I must confess my demented fondness for automotive advertisements. The various dealer ads fascinate me, even if I don’t understand how they can possibly lead to increased sales. Maybe if I’d paid more attention in class, I might understand some of the insanity that goes on down at the car lot. I understand the hotdogs and hamburgers, the flags and banners, and the giveaways: that’s all easy. But I don’t understand why so many auto dealers feel the need to stick inflatable gorillas on top of their dealerships. The high-diving mule act that was making its way around North Carolina car dealers in the 1980s made more sense than that. Everyone wants to see a mule dive off a fifty-foot platform, but who buys a car just because someone pumps up a gigantic ape? Well, I suppose lots of people do, judging by all the big monkeys I see.

Who was the first person to use a giant, inflatable monkey as a sales gimmick, and where in the world did he find someone who could sell him one? This question vexes me, and I don’t even know where to find an answer. Maybe there’s some secret "How to sell cars" book that has all the facts, including the addresses of all the world’s inflatable monkey providers. That would explain so much. There’s no shortage of secrets in the automobile sales profession, so adding in a chapter on inflatable simian sales staff is just a normal course of business.

Well, I’m a smart boy, and I can learn from sales pros. The next time I want to convince my wife to let me do something, I’m going to rent an inflatable gorilla, pump him up, and stick him on our roof. I’ll take my wife outside, slap a hotdog in her hand, hand her a balloon, and say, "I really do want to retire this year, OK?" If I know my wife, she’ll look at me and the gorilla for a few nervous seconds. Then, I expect she’ll back up a few feet, and say, "Ugh... sure David... whatever you want." She’s smart like that. She knows it’s useless to argue with a man who has just rented an inflatable gorilla. It’s also likely to be dangerous — far more dangerous than anything a high-diving mule would ever face.

 

David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers, can be reached at davmccoy@bellsouth.net.

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