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Service Call: Maytag Hopefuls Hit NYC

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NEW YORK On a chilly Friday morning in February, the weeks-long search for the next Maytag repairman was under way at comedy club Caroline's on Broadway.

Steven Turkovich, a salesman, arrived wearing a sandwich board proclaiming his desire to be the next Maytag repairman. "He's one of the oldest characters in the ad industry, and I think I have what it takes to portray him," he said.

Participants were drawn by ads placed on Craigslist, A.M. New York and Monster.com.

The traveling audition made stops earlier this year in Los Angeles and Chicago.

At Caroline's, the participants are mostly middle-aged men, though an occasional woman gives the audition a whirl. They sit before of a group of casting directors—photos are taken and the hopefuls talk about themselves.

If things go well, they get to audition in front of a group of judges, including Jeff Davidoff, vp, brand marketing and communications at Whirlpool and Ed Han, svp, group creative director at Publicis in New York.

Once they make it to the audition stage, they are asked to explain why they want to be the next Maytag repairman. They are also asked to answer, in character, what they would do in their spare time while waiting for repair calls.

Professional actors as well as non-professionals were asked to participate. A new repairman will be named in April.

Davidoff estimated the company will support the new campaign with "over $30 million" in media. Last year the company had a measured media spend of spend of $20 million, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The Maytag repairman has been an advertising icon since 1967. He is currently portrayed by Hardy Rawls, whose contract is set to expire in March.

"With the purchase of Maytag by Whirlpool [last year], the decision was made to move in a new direction," said Han. "It offered a chance to refresh the brand and refresh the character."