The 30-second radio spot, which aired Nov. 2–8, featured two women discussing their daily schedule. One woman tells the other she needs to “get home by four to meet the plumber.” The second woman says, “That guy again? He’s a rip-off.”
“GTE’s directories are supported by small businesses. It’s the small businesses that spend millions of dollars in advertising,” said Manina Wassel, of Larry Wassel Plumbing, San Clemente, Calif. “You don’t call your customers a rip-off. It’s unacceptable.”
Wassel’s shop, a two-truck operation, led the assault against GTE. “We’ve been getting support from all over the country,” she said.
“GTE respects all tradesmen, especially plumbers,” said Julia Wilson, a GTE spokesperson for the California region.
Wilson said the commercial was ad-libbed from the script while being recorded. “It was a case of an actor trying to make a funny, off-the-cuff remark that didn’t work.”
The commercials did not run in other parts of the country, she said.
The GTE Basic Voice Mail ads follow on the heels of a Mr. Rooter radio ad that ran last year in the Eastern United States. That ad played on industry stereotypes of the disrespectful, uneducated, “butt-crack” plumber. Despite strong industry opposition, some local Mr. Rooter franchises continue to run the ad.