LAS VEGAS-Like perennial loser Rodney Dangerfield, some auto service technicians probably feel they, too, ``get no respect.'' Many have long fought the old ``grease monkey'' handle-and subsequent mental image that nickname conjures. Even the term ``mechanic'' no longer seems politically correct, at least in some repair circles.
To help dispel those notions, Snap-On Inc., the Kenosha, Wis.-based tool maker, launched a nationwide Tribute series of advertisements in August 1994 ``to celebrate and pay tribute to Snap-On's customer-the automotive technician.''
At the recent Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) trade shows in Las Vegas, the firm announced it was premiering Tribute II, called an ``exciting new phase'' of its series meant to boost the image of technicians as well as enhance consumer education about just what it takes to service the motoring public's vehicles.
The ads-featuring the theme, ``It takes a lot to be an auto technician''-will highlight ``the challenges and struggles'' techs experience, according to Branko Beronja, president of Snap-On's North American sales operations.
Snap-On, whose red-and-white equip-ment vans are familiar sights at neighbor-hood garages and auto service shops around the country, is attempting to enlighten the public about the knowledge, training and skills required to be an automotive technician in the 1990s.
The three new ads feature warm, human interest portraits of ``individual technician personas.'' In tandem with the campaign, the company said it will offer consumer education materials focused on ``solutions to service problems by outlining the technologies, techniques and equipment used by technicians to service the growing fleet of vehicles on the road.''
During an AAIW press conference, company executives took turns praising the ads as a way to break down stereotypes about technicians.
In part, the campaign is aimed at educating women, whom Lori Richardson, senior director of marketing, said comprise at least 50 percent of auto service consumers.
The latest ad profiles grew from a survey of technicians and consumers in a number of states. It found that ``skill and trust'' are paramount to motorists, especially women, who often feel they're ``at the mercy of a mechanic,'' Ms. Richardson said. That very real fear about going to a service shop is due, in part, to vehicle technology, which has become increasingly sophisticated.
On the other hand, she pointed out that ``technician self-esteem'' is a primary issue facing the repair industry today.
In one ad, a tech and his young daughter are pictured working together at a computer. The headline reads: ``In high school, they called him a Gear Head.'' The copy outlines the years of technical school, update classes and clinics a tech needs annually to just keep up with complicated technologies.
Another ad begins, ``To her parents he was nothing but a Hot Rodder,'' while a third says, ``To his friends he was just a Car Freak.''
Mr. Beronja said the ``It takes a lot. . . '' tagline gives consumers a benchmark to look for in service, while providing a critical marketing tool for service shop owners.
``At a time when shop owners have invested an average of $41,000 in tools and equipment, their ability to market those services to consumers has become a critical element in their success,'' he said.
``This campaign provides two critical elements that our customers have told us they need-a means for increasing the image of their technicians, and a means for marketing the shop's technological capabilities to consumers.''
The ads are also meant to reach school-age young men and women interested in considering a career opportunity in the automotive repair industry, Mr. Beronja said, as well as their parents.
While Snap-On has yet to approach any vocational education schools or colleges about the campaign, he said the company hopes to ``get more aggressive in that area,'' and could possibly work toward that direction in conjunction with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, which certifies repair technicians.
Meanwhile, Snap-On Tribute II ads will run in issues of People magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, Sports Illustrated, USA Today and, in Canada, Maclean's.
The company said posters based on the ads also will be available for display in 300,000 automotive service centers and dealerships in North America.