Richmond company makes Super Bowl play

One of Richmond’s biggest companies is teaming up with a few VCU grads to make a play for the Super Bowl.

CarMax will again run a nationally televised ad during the Super Bowl. Sunday’s 30-second spot will air during the game’s second quarter, a CarMax spokesperson said.

The used car retail giant hired Silver + Partners, an advertising agency in New York, to make the ad. Coincidentally, three VCU Brandcenter alumni who work at the agency joined in on the collaboration: Howard Finkelstein, a 2005 graduate, and Jillian Dresser and Casey Rand, members of the class of 2008.

CarMax’s commercial revolves around a “slow clap” that builds in intensity and humor as a happy CarMax customer leaves the lot with his car and cruises around town. A slightly longer version of the spot has already been released on YouTube.

The company also produced an alternate version of the commercial – one that replaces all of the actors with puppies and the slow claps with “slow barks.” It’s a play on Animal Planet’s popular “Puppy Bowl,” an annual canine version of the Super Bowl.

CarMax would not say how much it spent on the ad.

According to a report from the Associated Press, a 30-second spot for this year’s Super Bowl cost about $4 million. That’s up $200,000 over last year and more than 95 times than the cost of an ad in the first Super Bowl. That year, 1967, a spot went for $42,000, the AP said.

Finkelstein, a Philadelphia native, previously worked on a CarMax ad for the big game in 2011.

He said it took the ad team a couple of months of brainstorming to come up with the idea for the “Slow Clap” ad.

“I really like how celebratory it is,” Finkelstein said. “We kind of had a little fun with an over-the-top experience of buying a car.”

Mike Welch, business director at Silver + Partners, said CarMax’s emphasis on the customer is reflected in the ad.

“We wanted to find a way to showcase that, for CarMax, the customer really is the hero and the focal point for what they do,” Welch said.

As it continues to expand with new stores, CarMax said it hopes the ads will build brand awareness in markets where the company hasn’t made its mark.

It plans to add 13 stores this year – and 10 to 15 stores in the next two fiscal years – across the country. It has more than 120 locations nationwide and is headquartered on a campus in the West Creek development in Goochland County.

At least 10 VCU Brandcenter graduates worked on a commercial that will run during this year’s Super Bowl, according to the Brandcenter. They include Tom Wilson, class of 1998; Karen Land and Joseph Quattrone, 2008; Kristopher Kennedy, 2009; Lauren Geisler and Marika Wiggan, 2010; and Mike Wilson, 2011. Their ads are for companies including Heinz, Chobani and Volkswagen.

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