Monkey Shines in Ads

A friend who’s a former ad man sent an e-mail that simply says, “And this is a real commercial.”

Attached was a video clip. Turns out, it’s one of four TV spots touting a fake product but a real dealership, the Suburban Auto Group, selling Fords, Chevys and Suzukis in Sandy, OR, south of Portland.

All four ads have aired locally. They were also on “But in one week on a dedicated server we had 3 million downloads and had to shut them off,” says Les Dalrymple, Suburban’s Internet manager. “We’ll try again soon and hope things have cooled down somewhat.”

They’re not your typical dealership ads.

Each spoofs the vigilance of a trained chimp that protects people and their vehicles, sometimes violently.

The ad that caught my friend’s eye begins with a thief breaking into a car and getting set to take off. The next shot shows the chimp, in the trunk reading, reacting to the theft in progress.

He sneaks up and clubs the guy. The next shot shows the car stopping midway on a bridge. The chimp drags the felon out by his feet. He’s hurled off the bridge and into the water.

A narrator says, “The Trunk Monkey theft-retrieval system. Because sometimes getting your car back is simply not enough. Another revolutionary idea you’ll find only at Suburban Auto Group.”

The spots offend some people. Most evidently find them funnier than a barrel of monkeys.

“The ads are a big hit here,” says Erinn Sowle, Suburban’s general manager. “People love them. We’ve had only a couple of complaints. Some thought Road Rage was too violent.”

In that, a meek motorist, threatened by a bully during a traffic altercation, pushes a Trunk Monkey button in his car. The chimp ends up putting the claw end of a crowbar in the redneck’s neck.

Then the voice-over tagline: “The Trunk Monkey. Another revolutionary idea you’ll only find at one place. Suburban Auto Group.”

One of the funniest (and less violent) spots opens with three kids egging a guy’s car as he drives down a suburban street. He pushes his Trunk Monkey button. Mr. Chimps jumps out and pursues the bewildered brats.

Two hop a fence. The third gets halfway over, but the chimp grabs him. His terrified face is shown in close-up as he’s slowly pulled down.

After what happened to the car thief and the big bully, one may wonder what’s in store for a captured kid. Relax. The spot ends with all three miscreants, under chimpanzee supervision, washing the car they egged.

“Two endings were done for that one,” says Sowle. “The one we didn’t use simply ended with the kid being dragged down off the fence.”

That likely left too much to the imagination.

R. West, a Portland-based agency, did the spots.

“The concept of the ads is that we go above and beyond for the customer,” says Sowle. “Even to the point of offering the Trunk Monkey.”

But there is no Trunk Monkey product. (Why is that a relief?) I clarified that point with Sowle, prefacing my inquiry by saying, “This may be a dumb question, but…”

An interesting question is if it sells cars.

“It’s hard to quantify how many actual sales are a result of the ads,” says Sowle. “They’re not your standard call-to-action dealership ads. But they’ve given us a lot of name recognition.”

Dalrymple says of the pretend product, “I wish there were a real Trunk Monkey. I could have sold thousands.”

The chimp’s name is Jonah. He was in the “Planet of the Apes” 2001 movie remake. He gets VIP treatment when he flies in for the ads. “He stays at a hotel and earns union scale,” says Sowle.

He’s earned something of a following locally – and beyond. “We get comments from as far away as Australia and England and from some of our guys in the Middle East,” says Dalrymple.

The ads are being syndicated, meaning more dealerships are partaking in monkey shines.

COPYRIGHT 2004 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Source: Ward’s Dealer Business

Iraqi roadside bomb kills Concord man

Michael Price felt driven to perilous security work

Michael Price’s father offered him $100,000 if he would leave Iraq.

His mother begged him to come home.

But the 33-year-old Concord resident told them he was doing what he wanted to — providing security for a company destroying Saddam Hussein’s munitions caches.

Early Friday, his parents’ fears were realized when their son died of injuries suffered earlier in the week in a deadly roadside bombing.

“We tried to persuade him not to go — it’s scary over there,” said Joyce Bakersmith, who is married to Price’s father, Vernon. “We’re going to miss him.”

His father, who was so upset he could barely speak Friday, had planned to leave that day for Germany where his son was to be flown for medical care.

Before leaving for Iraq in January, Price was a weapons instructor for HALO Group Inc. in Concord for two years. The private company trains law enforcement and others in shooting and defensive tactics.

In January he left to work for Cochise Consultancy Inc. out of Florida, one of many private firms providing security for contractors in Iraq. Cochise is protecting USA Environmental of Tampa as it removes explosives under a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The roadside bomb that killed Price also killed two colleagues traveling with him. His family has been told that despite severe shrapnel wounds to his head, he tried to help those men.

In an e-mail to friends and family on April 20, five days before the bombing, he described his job as “trunk monkey” or rear security to the convoy.

“Our job is basically to protect the convoy vehicles, personnel and certain cargos from the little nasties that plague us here. I cannot be specific as to who, what, when, or why, so just roll with it.”

Friends and colleagues describe Price as having little fear of things often terrifying to others.

After attending high school near Los Angeles, he entered the Navy as a medical technician on the USS Midway during the Persian Gulf War. He won a presidential citation for pulling two shipmates out of a burning ammunition storage facility.

He then became an expert rock climber and lived in Yosemite National Park, where he and his friend Mark Peters did searches and rescues off the highest rock formations, which park rangers couldn’t reach. Once, Price found a lost boy alive, “which is quite rare for a search and rescue,” said Peters, who grew up with his friend in Dallas, Texas. Their families both moved from there to outside Los Angeles and later the two friends moved to the Bay Area, where Price has lived since 1995.

Price took up the rare hobby of hunting boars with a spear, although Peters said he never actually killed one. He sailed, was an expert scuba diver and once swam the Carquinez Strait from Crockett to Glen Cove during shipping traffic, just for the heck of it.

“We used to ask him if he had a big read ‘S’ on his chest,” said Kevin McMahon, a friend and HALO spokesman.

When he wanted to go to Iraq with Cochise, it didn’t surprise Peters. Price, he said, was a natural protector, and the money was good. He estimates Price was making $12,000 a month. It was enough, his family said, to pay off his bills and get on a firm financial footing so he could take care of his 11-year-old daughter in Southern California. She was born during a brief marriage while Price was in the Navy.

That’s why Price’s father offered to give him $100,000 to come home.

“He didn’t have to do what he did to do that,” Vernon Price said from his home in Pomona.

Price kept in close e-mail contact with both of his parents while in Iraq. When the four American civilian contractors were killed March 31 in Fallujah and their bodies mutilated, his mother, Alice Smith, e-mailed him and begged him to come home. In a response that he also sent to his father, Price wrote in part:

“You must understand that it’s not just the money that drives me here. … I know and understand your concern; if I was in your shoes, I would feel the same way. I am sorry to put you through this stress, and you know it is not my intention to worry you. I just can’t help who and what I am, and as crazy as it may sound to some, there is no other place in the world I’d rather be at this moment. I will be home soon. I don’t know when, but I promise I will be there. I love you.”

Byline: Carrie Sturrock