The Beautiful Story Behind an Ugly Truck

The year was 1987. One man hit the road with a briefcase, a box of videotapes, and a campaign that would dominate tier 3 advertising for nearly a decade.

This man was Strong Associate Russ Randolph. He was commissioned as the exclusive salesman for the Don’t You Buy No Ugly Truck advertising campaign, the brainchild of Mike Strong and Tommy Charles. For years, Randolph traveled the country selling one of the most successful commercial packages in recent history.

To learn what sparked this abhorrence for unattractive trucks, we have to start with the popular fast food ad: Where’s the Beef? Inspired by the familiar, grandmotherly appeal of the Wendy’s commercial, Mike sought to capitalize on this trend and create the Ugly Truck television spot series.

Granny Debuts Ugly Truck

In the beginning, “Don’t You Buy No Ugly Truck” was only a slogan, launched primarily in the Birmingham market. Shortly after it was introduced, the phrase’s success made it clear that a spokesperson delivery would up the ante.

The first Ugly Truck casting call took place at Roebuck Mazda. The open-to-the-public event was a huge success, generating an unanticipated turnout and drawing hundreds of people into the Mazda dealership. While the client certainly profited from the additional brand exposure, it was Strong who scored biggest with the discovery of Granny.

Once Granny was embedded in the ads, the campaign’s popularity exploded. All across the nation, people who were alive in the 80s will remember the iconic, lightheartedly patronizing figure warning them against the perils of purchasing an unsightly truck.

Smack is Back in 2018

By the turn of the century, Granny had all but disappeared. It wasn’t until 2017 that John Paul Strong began looking into reacquiring the rights to the campaign and reincarnating it into its present-day form.

John Paul had the perfect talent in mind for the role. Instead of the bonnet-clad, Andy Griffith-style Granny of the past, the new Ugly Truck crusader would bear a closer resemblance to the campy style of Larry the Cable Guy. A local favorite of John Paul’s lake community, Smack was commissioned to play the part.

It would have been easy to recreate the Ugly Truck campaign without veering much from its original style. The Strong team realized, however, that past success doesn’t guarantee the same results for a remake. Ugly Truck worked well in its time, but today’s digital-savvy audience has come to expect something more interactive than the original approach.

Several months of planning went by, and Strong’s creative team had finally developed the master plan for Ugly Truck’s 2018 launch.

“We had to make sure we had the right guy with the right look and the right lines,” Creative Director Tori Reid said. “We didn’t want to rush into it just because this formula had worked before. It was important to create something that the Account Team can sell.”

What It Means for Our Clients

The marketability of such a classic should not be underestimated. Any car dealer who was in business in the 80s will remember the original Ugly Truck and be able to associate the new campaign with its original success and ubiquitousness. In the beginning, this package will be targeted primarily at small- to mid-size dealers across the country. It includes a TV spot, homepage graphics, Facebook graphics, POP and a hangable lot banner.

“This campaign will give us a great opportunity to sell one-offs to dealers who aren’t currently in our client base, opening up our market reach and getting our name in front of new audiences,” Reid said.

Promotion and sales of Don’t You Buy No Ugly Truck will begin as early as July. Keep an eye out for the return of this timelessly successful advertising campaign.

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