Red Trans Am, Part 1
It was supposed to be the greatest radio promotion
to ever hit the Bay Area. We would ride redman Sammy Hagar’s
momentum to a screeching, breathtaking, highly visible campaign to
give away a car. But not just any car.
It was 1978 and KMEL Radio’s new success somewhat
mirrored Sammy’s He had been divorced from Ronnie Montrose and his
band for a few years and was on the cusp of national acclaim. In
fact, his latest album, “Red,” was then blessed with monster
airplay throughout the USA.
“Red, red, I want red. There’s no substitute for
red.” The LP’s title track was high on almost every rock station’s
playlist, and now programmers were digging deeper in the grooves
to find the next big hit.
So, “Trans Am” was rolled out. Hagar truly loved
that Pontiac model, so by extension, he was anti-Camaro, its
bumper-to-bumper competitor for the wallets of young hot-rodders.
Sammy harbored a special dislike for the Camaro Z-28.
In a burst of creativity that I as a deejay had
absolutely no hand in, the high muckety-mucks at 106 FM had
conjured up a high octane campaign.
Troncatty Pontiac in Corte Madera had ponied up a
spanking new Trans Am – red, of course – in return for about a
million announcements and ads trumpeting the dealership. The idea
was to wheel the car around to almost every local mall and other
high visibility locations. There would be guest deejays phoning in
live, on-air reports, beacoup give-aways, live music, free food,
posters of the famous logo featuring the Kamel jumping through the
Golden Gate Bridge wherever you looked.
Outside, the ubiquitous inflatable Kamel would
jibe in the wind like some bobble-head doll.
“IEATZ28.” Our Trans Am boasted one killer, custom
license plate. The car was shuttled hither and yon in an admirable
gameplan worthy of a scrambling Jeff Garcia. True to the mucks’
hopes, TV and print coverage rolled our way bigtime.
The hook was a big one. Register at the remote
broadcast locations or listen to the station to win one of 106
actual keys we would give away. One hundred six keys played off
our frequency, 106.1 FM. (Who says high level radio muckety-mucks
aren’t creative beasts?)
Only one key would turn over the Trans Am’s
engine, so we planned a daylong event to determine which lucky
listener would drive away with the Hagarmobile.
That’s when the wheels came off.
(More next week)