Joe Isuzu Makes TV Comeback

After an 11-year hiatus, Joe Isuzu is returning to TV—and to form—as he gets in shape to reprise the pitchman role that made him famous.

The campaign, created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, focuses on what Joe, a smarmy, lying car salesman played by David Leisure, has been doing for the past decade.

In the first spot, set to break today, an intentionally bad Rodeo lease ad is airing on TV in Joe’s home. A camera pans across the room, revealing memorabilia such as an ’80s photo of Joe shaking hands with then-president George Bush and a magazine cover that reads: “Joe Takes Madison Avenue.” Then an overweight Joe, who is reclining on the couch, yells “Hacks!” to his wife, who tells him to “let it go.” He now jokes, “They haven’t done a good commercial since they let me loose.”

In a second spot, Joe is called by Isuzu executives, who ask if he can “sell some trucks.” To the tune of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” he trains to get back in shape. Joe jogs and chops wood as his wife flashes cue cards with SUV information. Finally, a slimmed-down Joe runs up to an Isuzu dealership, where cheering dealers greet him. The spot then cuts to a card, which reads, “He’s back.”

The third spot, breaking in late March or early April, will be the first to focus on the Axiom SUV. The spots end with Isuzu’s logo and “Go farther” tagline.

“What the heck, they brought back Aerosmith, and they kicked ‘N Sync’s butt at the Super Bowl. So why not?” said Jeff Goodby, co-chairman and creative director. Goodby won the business in 1992.

Gary Tucker, Isuzu vp of marketing and product planning, said Isuzu had to make a quick impression. “The market is crowded with product launches, so this was the right opportunity [to bring back Joe],” he said.

“We never should have gotten rid of Joe,” Jerry Della Femina said last week. While others were less enthusiastic over seeing the return of the obnoxious car salesman, one executive noted, “Goodby can probably pull this off.”