People get awfully nervous when they bring their cars into the shop for repairs. Most of us don’t know the difference between a crankshaft and a carburetor, and we’re fearful of shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for something we don’t need.
Well aware of our fear and skepticism and, at times, outright paranoia, the major players in the car care industry tend to push the concept of trust in their advertising campaigns. But in formulating a brand overhaul for Meineke—its first in 40 years—Los Angeles-based advertising agency Pitch chose to empower consumers with knowledge about their cars and explain why routine maintenance is necessary rather than simply demand blind trust. “We realized that the more people know, and the more we can help them know, the easier it will be for them to drive into a Meineke,” says Pitch executive creative director Xanthe Wells.
Out of that thinking came the Drive a Little Smarter campaign, elements of which include a streamlined mobile scheduling app, an educational print campaign, spiffy new uniforms for Meineke employees and television commercials directed by Jeff Tomsic of Go Films that have Robby Novak, better known as Kid President, SoulPancake’s 10-year-old YouTube sensation, breaking down why it is important to visit Meineke for routine car care in the way that only a child could. Case in point: In one spot, he uses a slide and a blow-up dinosaur to illustrate what happens to your car when you don’t change your oil regularly.
Why hire an adorable little boy to educate adults about car care as opposed to an automotive expert like say, a race car driver? According to Wells, the thinking was, “If most people know as much about cars as the average 10-year-old, why don't we get the smartest 10-year-old we can find to teach us something new about car care?”
"...why don't we get the smartest 10-year-old we can find to teach us something new about car care?"
As we know from his YouTube videos and TED talks, Novak has a way with words, and he put his own spin on the copy he was given for the Meineke commercials. “He takes lines of copy and then ‘Robby-izes’ them in ways one can’t possibly imagine,” Wells says. “For example, when he was asked to address the franchisees, he said, ‘Hey, French people,’ which had us all roaring with laughter on set, or when comparing cars to UFOs, he said, ‘They both shoot lights!’ ”
While Novak is the star of Meineke’s new commercials, he doesn't appear in any of the campaign’s other media channels. “We wanted it to be very clear that it’s the Drive a Little Smarter campaign not the Kid President campaign,” Wells says. “As much as we love the Kid President brand, it’s important for Meineke to show how Drive a Little Smarter will work across many touchpoints in uniquely powerful ways.”