Parkway Chevrolet Turns to Leprechaun For a Boost

Tomball, Texas - July 14, 1999 - For years, marketing professionals have recognized the power of cute little characters to help brand their products. Tony the Tiger sells Frosted Flakes. Mr. Peanut guides consumers to Planters' products. Now, a Tomball auto dealer hopes to take advantage of the power of cartoon charisma with a cute little character that ties his roots. Mike Waldron, general manager of Parkway Chevrolet, and Ernest Haynes, president of Haynes Retail Advertising, have unveiled a leprechaun character they plan to use to brand the dealership. The decision was easy says Haynes-Waldron is an Irishman with a heavy brouge accent, and Parkway has used television spots for years. "The idea was the easy part," said Haynes. "Finding an animation company to create an animated 3D leprechaun was a little more difficult."

Haynes asked Chris Wetzel, production manager at Time Warner's Woodlands studio, for advice. "To create the look they wanted, I thought we might have to go to an animation shop in California, Orlando, or New York," said Wetzel. Character animation in 3D, the kind of look made popular by such blockbuster hits as Toy Story, Antz, and A Bug's Life, is a specialized art form. Powerful software, lightning-fast computers and skilled artists are necessary to create that style of animation. "Parkway Chevrolet needed a total of eight-seconds of animation for a 30-second clip," said Wetzel. He knew it would be expensive, but also believed adding 3D animation would really help Parkway's ads cut through the clutter of television advertising. Serendipity made a big difference in Wetzel's thinking when he received a call from Vic Cherubini, president of epic software group, which is also located in The Woodlands.

epic is a multimedia production company which for the last nine years has produced interactive catalogs and web sites for oil and gas clients. "The recent downturn in the oil patch got us looking into other markets, and entertainment was a natural," said Cherubini. Wetzel visited epic and the next day put the agency, client and production company together for a two-hour brain-storming session. Two days after the meeting, epic delivered a series of sketches of various leprechaun characters to Waldron and Haynes. They liked them all, but their favorite turned out to be one that looked like a miniature version of Waldron. Cherubini put his team of eight artists and animators on the project, and in over the next two weeks, they created 240 individual frames needed for the spot. "To see a character go from a concept to an animated figure on the screen was really amazing," said Waldron. "The spot came out better than we imagined, and it was great fun working with the creative team at epic."

Haynes has all kinds of ideas how to use the Parkway Chevrolet leprechaun, from key chains to to an animated host on the Parkway web site. "There's one thing left to do before the character is complete," Haynes said. "That's to give him a name." The dealership is now looking for suggestions for a name for it's new character. Those who think they have an appropriate name are asked to e-mail it to Parkway Chevrolet at [email protected]

The person who submits the name eventually chosen for the character will win a prize. Deadline for entries is July 31, 1999.