- Ken Herman American-Statesman Staff
There are several ways to ingrain (inflict?) yourself on the public psyche. You can repeatedly do very good deeds. You can do one very, very bad deed. Or you can buy TV ads; lots and lots of TV ads.
Bill Dickason has opted for the latter. Can’t quite place the name? See if this helps: “If I can’t beat a new Kia deal in Texas, I’m just gonna give it to ya.”
More on him and that in a minute.
I love local TV ads. The lower the production values, the better. (Feel free to insert something snarky here about the quality of my videos.) And the cheesier, the better. Austin’s Couch Potatoes, a local furniture store, recently had good ones with a guy in a potato costume. Alas, the store’s more recent ones are far more dignified (and far less fun/memorable).
Then there’s the unfortunate local law firm that’s spent some bucks in recent years to forcibly embed in your skull a phone number to remember for use at a critical time: “For jail release, call 777-7777. Again, for jail release call 777-7777, Our phone number is simple. Just dial all sevens.”
Annoying? Yes, that’s the point. But I feel kind of sorry for these guys because now, thanks to a recent change, if you dial all sevens you get a nice lady who asks you to dial the area code and who can’t spring you from jail. That could be a problem if, as in the movies, you get to make only one phone call from jail.
Over the years, we’ve had plenty of annoying/beloved local TV ads. Anybody else been around here long enough to remember a chirpy little guy named Mickey James doing TV ads for his South Austin appliance store? Or the delightful Dutch-accented voice that told us Greenhouse Mall’s phone number was 25o-oooo (letter o’s, not zeroes). Years ago, before I got to town, appliance dealer Oscar (“The Big O”) Snowden became well-known as a result of his TV ads. Ditto for the late Willie Kocurek (“Where there’s a Willie, there’s a way; you don’t need money, just a little bit a month.” ).
Email me about local commercials, current or from days of yore, that have stuck in your mind or craw or that made you want to kill your TV. Perhaps the Charles Maund Toyota guy dressed up as Austin Powers is on your list of the latter (and no, I don’t need deep-dive details on exactly what you’d like to do to him with a kitchen implement).
Which brings us back to Dickason, executive manager of Austin’s Capitol Kia and several Kia dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Looks like he offices at his Mesquite dealership.
Dickason, in the Snowden-Kocurek tradition, is a leader among the current incarnation of the genre. His Capitol Kia ads, for my tastes, lose some points for looking pretty professional. But they score points for their seeming everpresence and for the total inability for any human to not have a reaction to Dickason. That’s weird because it’s hard to pinpoint one particular annoying thing about Dickason and his ads. Everything’s in focus, he stands next to a nice lady and neither are dressed as anything from the produce aisle. But there’s something about Dickason …
His ads are in heavy rotation, particularly — as with other local car dealers — during local newscasts. (Far be it from me to complain about advertisers who support local news products. As I’ve assured you in the past, every advertiser in this newspaper offers fine products at competitive prices and has impeccable personal hygiene.)
So I have nothing against Dickason or his ads. Others, however, have felt a need to vent. Some highlights from a Yelp online conversation among folks united by him:
Laura: “Ugh, thank God I’m not the only one. I freakin’ hate those commercials! Remember when George Carlin suggested a remote button that would have the person on the screen’s head explode? He must have seen Bill Dickason’s commercials.”
Errol M. “What was semi-creepy for me was turning on my Dallas hotel room TV and there he is with the same ad.”
Ben G.: “No, I’m just gonna give it to ya! A (really bad expletive) knuckle sandwich. Kia guy Bill Dickinson I hate you with every ounce of my being. … Oh look you came on the tube as I’m typing this. … Stop this commercial’s creepy incessant insanity! Go to bed Bill Dickinson, go to bed. Who’s with me!!!”
(FYI, it’s Dickason, not Dickinson.)
Urwhatueat (read that name slowly): “When he says ‘I’m just gonna give it to ya,’ what does he mean exactly? He could be telling the truth. He’s not going to give you a car per se, he’s just ‘gonna give it to ya,’ whatever that means.”
Daryl F.: “Bill Dickason isn’t a car salesman or owner. He is a paid actor, dealerships pay him to come to their dealerships and have him make those commercials. It’s a pretty good living, it pays some serious cash.”
Don’t listen to Daryl F. Dickason is a real car dealer selling real cars at dealerships in Austin, Mesquite, Dallas and Rockwall. He’s not an actor (though most car dealers have a bit of show biz in them), but his sidekick on the ads is. She’s Caroline Renfro of North Carolina. More about her after a brief examination of Dickason’s signature claim concerning beating other Kia deals.
First, let’s assume that a new Kia is the “it” in “If I can’t beat a new Kia deal in Texas, I’m just gonna give it to ya.” (I’m aware that “it” can refer to lots of things, some profane, a reality backed by some online comments and artwork I’ve seen about the “it” Dickason promises to give ya.)
The offer seems to be that Dickason will give you a free car if you can prove that another dealer beats Capitol Kia’s price. That leaves Dickason with two choices: Give you a free car or charge you a penny below the other dealer’s offer. Hmm, what would you do?
I called Dickason to see if he’s ever had to give anyone a new car because he couldn’t beat another dealer’s price. I called about eight times over two weeks. He hasn’t called back yet.
Back in May 2012, Dickason’s ads hit the local Better Business Bureau’s radar. Claiming to have found a pattern in which cars advertised at attractive prices were not available when customers sought to buy them, the BBB warned shoppers to “be wary of Capitol Kia’s promises.” KXAN reported on the warning. Dickason denied the allegation and told the station “I’m an award-winning dealer in customer service and satisfaction. I am not a member of the BBB.”
Nor is he a fan of the BBB.
“They get their revenue from these businesses so if you’re not paying, there’s an incentive to drive down your score to what? To encourage you to pay,” he told KXAN.
The BBB website says it contacted Capitol Kia in January 2012 about its sales tactics.
“On October 11, 2012,” the BBB reports, “the company responded by stating they would provide training for the entire staff. Additionally, every advertisement that will be published either in print or through electronic media is reviewed and approved by the general manager.”
Back to Caroline Renfro, Dickason’s smiling, supportive sidekick on the commercials. She’s a pro at this, and seems to also be something of a cult celebrity in the Fort Myers, Fla., area where she plays a similar role on high-rotation TV spots for Fuccillo Kia. Those ads, starring dealership owner Billy Fuccillo, feature the word “huge.” To be more precise, the ads feature the word “HUGE.”
Renfro also has been an extra in a Bojangles ad and a “principle” in a Krispy Kreme ad. A resume at 800Casting.com includes a long list of credits, including two (“reporter Thomsen” and “announcer”) on “Homeland” episodes.
Her bio posted at Actors Access lists a bunch of “special skills,” including “live event emcee, singing, accents (British, Southern, Spanish), semi-fluent in Spanish, bartender, very proficient equestrian, swimming, makeup design, makeup, sound equipment set-up & operation” and others, including “can drive automatic and manual. Very skilled with TelePrompter.”
Let me leave you with this (if my bosses will allow me to make this offer): If we can’t beat a locally-produced, seven-day-a-week newspaper deal in Austin, we’re just gonna give it to ya.