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Face of the Franchise
Let’s say you’re the founder and CEO of a company that advertises on TV, and you’re thinking of casting yourself in the role of pitchman for your product. For starters, you think, I wouldn’t have to pay somebody else to do it. And besides (you might say to your team), who could resist my charm, my good looks, and my knack of always being right? Right?

Before you commit to this plan, however, perhaps it would be worth your time to look at the track records of others who have similarly stepped into the spotlight. Their experiences, if you ask people outside of their inner circles, are spotty at best.

John Schnatter, the founder and now spokesman for Papa John’s Pizza, is one of the most prominent examples. He’s all over the tube during football season, and he is the lead actor in all of his ads. Some of his ads feature him laughing during outtakes with his fellow actors. This is a bad sign; some one on his ad staff, seeing that Schnatter was not particularly likable on camera, probably stitched those scenes into his ads in an effort to show that the boss is a regular guy. It doesn’t work; I don’t like John Schnatter, and I’m not going to be buying any of his pizza.

Yes, I understand that these are matters of personal taste. You may think he’s a good fellow and that I am some kind of cranky misanthrope. I won’t argue that point. I am simply reporting the news from my own viscera, and in the case of Papa John Schnatter, the news is not good.

On the other hand, I do like like Jim Koch. He’s the guy you see in Sam Adams beer ads. Maybe it’s because the ads feature him as a genial doofus being dunked in tubs of beer for charity’s sake and such, or maybe it’s because I like his product. It doesn’t matter. My viscera reports to me that he is a much more likable person than Papa John. He might be an S.O.B. in real life, but all I’ve got to go on is his TV persona.

Some other visceral reports: Dave Thomas, founder and one-time spokesguy for Wendy’s: passable. Same goes for his replacement and daughter, Wendy Thomas. Domino’s J. Patrick Doyle: almost, but not quite. Richard Branson, the Virgin guy: okay, I guess; you gotta love the space tourism thing. Ralph Lauren: bogosity incarnate, even without speaking.

There is also a class of ads that appear mostly on local TV. These feature owners pushing their products with wacky costumes and silly hijinks. I have never bought anything from these people, and I never will. That’s right: my decision is based solely on their ads. I don’t want their roofing services, their furniture, or their large home appliances, irrespective of their price or quality.

Finally, let me mention one C.E.O. whose main product seems to be himself. Or rather, let me not mention him, because I don’t want to give him any more notoriety than he already has. He reflects something ugly and repugnant in our culture, and I’m not buying into any of it. So there. I’ll leave you to guess who he is. Keyword: loathsome.

It may be that you and your team are right, and you are indeed charming and likable. It may be that your style and appearance will play well on television. However, if you are not certain that you are getting honest opinions from your inner circle, if you suspect that you might be even be repellent to potential customers, then please take a deep breath before you dive in. Or better yet, send me a demo tape; I’d be happy to offer my assessment — as a member of the cranky misanthrope demographic.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon