Hotchkiss: ‘Dime’ catchphrase on the radio isn’t unique to Augusta

It’s a crime to pay more than a dime.

 

If you listen to the radio in the Augusta area, you know exactly what I’m referring to.

It’s that radio commercial. Actually it’s a series of commercials, but they each begin the same way – with the familiar four-note intro to the classic TV police drama Dragnet.

But it doesn’t take long for the voice actors, portraying the fictional detectives from the show, to embark on their true mission – to tell listeners that apparently you need only a 10-cent down payment to acquire a vehicle at auto dealership Evans Kia.

Each radio spot is a 30-second playlet with familiar film-noir tropes – the gum-cracking, ditzy dame with a Brooklyn accent; the dusky femme fatale; the weaselly petty criminal; even an entire courtroom crowd gasping in astonishment.

The commercials seem to have two purposes – either to sell you a car, or to get the commercials stuck in your noggin. The Evans Kia “Dime” spots arguably are the most pervasive earworms right now on Augusta radio.

Last July, someone started a conversation thread on the social media sharing site Reddit. The thread is titled, “Anyone else loathe and despise the Evans Kia commercial on the radio?”

It’s even come to this. Before the start of her eighth-grade social studies class earlier this year, my own daughter waggishly uttered, “Did you know it’s a crime —” to which four classmates responded, “To pay more than a dime?”

Sweet fancy Moses, that catchphrase is everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

See, the “Dime Police” don’t work just for Kia, and not just in Evans. It’s actually a templated ad package appearing all over the country.

Take Kia of Dayton, for example. One of its radio ads sounds almost identical to one played around here recently. The only difference was tailoring the specific sale information, and substituting the Dayton suburb of Huber Heights for Evans.

Apple Auto in Elkton, Md., has TV ads that use the same Dragnet voice actors, but paired with trenchcoat-wearing cartoons of detectives.

In Utah, Strong Volkswagen in Salt Lake City adopts the Dragnet detective routine for its “Dime” radio ads, but instead of characters Joe Friday and Frank Smith, the voices are from two guys who sound awfully like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

In Alabama, Opelika Ford and Opelika Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram’s “Dime” ads use the same Dragnet theme music but a more generic announcer. So does Johnson Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Meridian, Miss.

It might be unfair to call the ads “cookie-cutter.” I’d compare them more accurately to baking cookies from the same recipe but providing different sprinkles and frostings.

If you want to know who to congratulate for these ads – or at whose feet you’d like to lay the blame – it’s Jerry DeFalco. He owns and operates Jerry DeFalco Advertising, with offices in Orlando, Fla., Boston and Columbus, Ohio. His company first coined the phrases “It’s a crime to pay more than a dime! One dime down!” as far back as 2008.

The company even tried to trademark the catchphrases. But according to the legal-information retrieval website Justia, as of September 2016 the status of the application is listed as “abandoned.”

The “Dime” ads seemed to have cropped up locally not long after the Kia dealership in Evans changed hands. It began life in 2013 as Dyer Kia, but in July 2016 Rob Dyer sold his stock in the business to Wael Elsay, who changed the business’ name to Evans Kia.

And then the Dime Police rolled into town — and into our heads.

Several scientific studies have addressed the question of why musical earworms get stuck in our heads. The short answer: The most likely tunes to get stuck have easy melodies, fast tempos and are repetitive. The “Dime” ads certainly have the repetitive part down pat.

How do you get stuff unstuck? Researchers at England’s University of Reading recommend listening to something else, chatting with people, doing puzzles or even chewing gum. Apparently moving your mouth uses the same sections of the brain used for recalling short-term memories.

So try one of those methods. But please don’t try to inflict bodily harm on whoever you think is responsible.

It’s a crime.

 

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