by Max Brantley
... not willingly.
Leslie Basham, the TV talent for nearly two decades for the mega-car dealer Landers Auto, has been cut loose. A news release issued in her behalf indicates the news came as something of a shock.
Her news release linked her departure to the sale of Landers Auto to a national dealership group and a change of advertising direction.
She still does similar work for other clients.
Her release said she "deserved to be able to say good-bye."
NEWS RELEASE FROM GWL ADVERTISING
Where’s Leslie Basham? You may have noticed a big change to Landers Auto in Benton’s television commercials--no more Leslie Basham. The face that has entered our homes and hearts as the spokesperson for Landers for 20 years has been replaced by a blonder, flashier version.
It seems the style of the commercials has also undergone a “makeover.” Gone are the days of classic lines such as, “where character and reputation always make the difference,” and other homespun philosophies. They are now replaced with a much harder-edged approach.
Who would have done such a thing? Landers in Benton, which was once locally owned and operated by Steve Landers, Sr., is now owned by a Detroit-based automotive corporation, Penske Automotive Group. It named a new area vice president, Whit Ramonat, who alone made the call to end the soft-sell approach that Landers in Benton had relied on for almost two decades---one corporate decision with several local repercussions.
Basham, who was born and raised right here in Little Rock, had this to say about the switch, “For 19 and a half years, it was great relationship, it was privilege to work for them.” And, about their new way of advertising, “I think people appreciated the personal touch we had, that’s why we’ve been so successful. I think people will miss that.”
Gary Lay, owner of GWL Advertising, Inc. started the soft sell commercials introducing Basham as the spokesperson almost 20 years ago when Landers was just a small used car lot. “We grew together. The style that worked here, worked in several other markets in the south, and Leslie played a key role in that,” says Lay.
Lay still handles the advertising for Steve Landers, Sr. and his sons who continue to own and operate several local dealerships in Little Rock and throughout the state. Lay says, “It will be strange to not see Leslie on the Landers’ spots. She is a great lady with an Immeasurable amount of class. She, at least, deserved to be able to say good-bye.”