Ads Fan Flames of Hvacr Stereotypes

June 19, 2000
I’d like you to read the following lines, taken verbatim from a radio transcript:

“There’s one thing worse than a broken air conditioner. One thing you dread even more. The air conditioner repairman. First, try and find one. Then see how long it takes for him to get from where he is to where you are. It could be days or weeks. And when he finally does arrive, can you trust him to fix it? Or does that make you nervous too?”

Your first thought is probably that some consumer watchdog group, currently on the hvacr contractor-bashing bandwagon, is running a negative ad campaign; or, perhaps a local TV station is promoting an upcoming “sting” on the evening news.

You’re wrong. It’s from one of our own.

What would you think if your competitor ran an ad like that in your community? I’m willing to bet that contractors in the Detroit market aren’t too thrilled with this ad.

A well-known local contractor acquired by a utility and a member of that utility’s network of contractors has been running the radio ad.

I was driving to work the other day when I heard the radio spot and began shouting at the radio. Other drivers probably thought I was talking on a hands-free cell phone, but I was just disagreeing with the ad.

I kept asking myself how a respectable hvacr contractor could take the opportunity to tout its own services and products at the expense of the rest of the trade. This ad not only questions the integrity of hvacr workmanship, but further perpetuates the awful stereotype of our industry that the local and national media continue to hype, and we continue to fight.

What was this contractor thinking?

According to the contractor’s head of advertising, her company surveyed customers about heating and cooling contractors. She said the company geared its ad to responses from customers.

I asked her why the company chose to denigrate the industry while boosting its own image and she said that she felt the ad did not carry a negative tone.

Well, it certainly does.

I liken the ad to a political campaign smear. Only in this case, rather than smearing the opponent, the whole “political party” gets it. It’s one thing to say, “Our service is better than ABC’s.” But that isn’t the case here. To me, this type of ad reads like, “Our service is better than anyone else’s in this industry because everyone else has a reputation for slow and untrustworthy service.”

I heard a similar ad for a diamond-cutting company, where the owner touted his prowess at cutting “optically correct” diamonds and saying that most diamond cutters don’t cut diamonds that are optically correct. I bet he isn’t too welcome at the annual diamond-cutter’s convention. I’d be curious to see this contractor’s reception at future hvacr association chapter or national meetings.

In an era when we are trying to build up our industry’s reputation, it’s a shame there are members of our own trade who seem determined to tear us down.

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