May 13, 2005


You remember my little screed the other day about the giant Express Oil rat? Of course you do. Or not.

Anyway, someone came Googling by around 9:30 this morning, looking for rat express oil commercial. Possumblog was the first returned result (yay for me), and then I got to wondering if there might be some other searches that would come back with Possumblog. I typed in possum "express oil" , and in an astounding bit of Internet serendipity, saw a blog for a young man who is an actor.

And guess what?

He had tried out for a part as one of the technicians in the commercial! AND THE SOLUTION TO THE MYSTERY (or, at least, it starts to become more clear)? It IS supposed to be a possum!

Read all about it here, where our actor says he ad-libbed a bit with the director:

[...] I had to play straightman to a little possum. His name is Otis and he's a longtime customer who wears a hat, smokes a cigar and deftly maneuvers a car. [...]

The director asked if I thought Otis' meticulous attention to detail was overbearing.

"I don't mind if he points out things that need attention. It just makes my job easier. Strange, though. Possums aren't really known for their eyesight."

And to the question of whether Otis gets special treatment.

"Please, I'd treat anybody at Express Oil with the same 5-star quality service as Otis. Of course, possums have litters of 6 to 10, so I look at that as a continuing customer base. If they all survive."

I am not certain why they chose an animal as their new spokesthing that has a violent history with the automobile industry. [...]

Heh. Indeed. And kinda similar to my thinking before.

But, back to this character of "Otis." So, he IS a possum, but he's supposed to wear a hat and smoke. Well, the commercial didn't have him smoking, and I'm sure the ad agency (about more, in a minute) probably didn't think smoking rats clinicked well. But you know, if you're a possum, you're living on borrowed time anyway. I think they need to let him be a woozy Dean Martinesque martini-supial out for a good time before he bites the big one. But even if you live on the edge, car maintenance is still VERY important, you know.

Anyway, if you look at the storyboard photo that accompanies our actor's notes, you see that in the top handdrawn picture, Otis is the size of a regular possum. He's tiny--he's there in the bottom right corner, next to the crudely drawn Jimmy Tech. (Geez, I could be making a mint.) In any event, he's no giant rat.

BUT, what of this Otis fellow. Who thought up this gem!?


In moments, I found this excerpt from the May 3, 2005 edition of AdWeek:

May 03, 2005 -Jim Lovel

ATLANTA Luckie & Co. is launching a new television campaign for Express Oil Change and Service Centers next week that will introduce Otis, an opossum, as the company's spokescharacter, the shop said. [...]

[...] "In a category where we are outnumbered and outspent, our goal was to find a way to break through the clutter and the obvious choice was with an opossum," said Brad White, the independent Birmingham, Ala., shop's executive creative director. [...]

[...] Campaign spending is undisclosed. [...]

The obvious choice to break through the clutter is with a possum, eh?

"Breaking through the clutter," (which sound an awful lot like Comin' Through the Rye) is laudable. But how do I know this is a possum named Otis? It's not anywhere on the Express Oil website, and it's not mentioned in the ad. You know the only way most of the people who might be wondering about this commercial are going to know it's named Otis?

Through blogs like this!

Is that REALLY the way you want to control your message?! Why not have the possum with his own little website? It would make it a darned sight easier to figure out, and there could be things for kids (like little stuffed Otisessesses), and car care tips, and funny possum lore, and MAYBE SOME EXPLANATION OF WHAT'S GOING ON. And it's inexpensive, compared to teevee spots.

To go back, though--what, exactly, makes a slow-witted, nocturnal, semi-arboreal, omnivorous scavenging marsupial the ideal candidate for breaking through the clutter?

What sort of clutter are we talking about? You come in, you get your oil changed.

You know what would help your message? If your client's stores were clean like they used to be when they first started in the business. If they wouldn't try to convince me EVERY TIME I COME IN that my transmission fluid is discolored and burnt up. That when they do safety checks, and I KNOW I have two bad tires, if they don't just check the box saying "Tires Okay." That their A/C technicians don't look at everything with a bewildered look as if they've never before laid eyes on a car before. If "Express" meant 10 minutes, like it used to mean, rather than twenty. Or thirty.

Mystery mammal, for what it's worth, solved. What remains mysterious is if you're being outspent by your competitors, why waste so much money on something so entirely inscrutible.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at May 13, 2005 12:32 PM

Thanks for posting this information, as I finally saw that commercial two nights ago and I thought that character looked much more like a possum than a rat. At least the PR firm got that part right, though I agree with you that perhaps it might have been better to find an animal with a less well-documented history of an adversarial relationship to cars. Perhaps a dog might have been better?

Posted by: Stan at May 13, 2005 01:37 PM

A dog? Well, maybe--you figure he must have finally caught one he was chasing and now needs help taking care of it. BUT, you have to say that Toonces, The Driving Cat, would be pretty good as well, since it's already been established Toonces CAN drive a car (however badly).

I saw the commercial again this morning before I left for work, and I did wonder if they were trying for a possum. It would have been much funnier, though, to have him in the waiting room hanging by his tail.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at May 13, 2005 01:56 PM

Actually, they did try it with Otis "hanging" around the waiting room. . .

But he made a heck of a mess drinking the compolimentary coffee.

Posted by: El at May 13, 2005 02:02 PM