When Billy Dean, owner of “Billy Dean’s Guns and Ammo” store, placed an ad with the Texas Cockroach and KSHT, your home for non-offensive 80s country hits, the local populace reacted with a collective shrug. “Just another advertisement,” said Debbie Winthrop, “that I don’t listen to or read.” (Editor’s note: advertisers, please take Ms. Winthrop’s comments with a grain of salt as we can assure you that all ads placed in the Texas Cockroach reach a wide, varied and attentive audience).
The ad, which stated that Mr. Dean would not engage in business transactions with Muslims, people of Arabic descent, non-Christians or Democrats, seemed like a waste of time to most locals. “I didn’t get it,” said Tom Vandermeer, “because there are no Arabs, Muslims or non-Christians in LaCucaracha. Hell, only two people voted for Obama here – one of those was an accident – and everyone knows Teddy “Tree Hugger” Ross is the only person in LaCucaracha without a gun. Frankly, the ad seemed sort of pointless.”
Pointless or not, the audio version of the ad went viral over the Internet and, two weeks after the ads quit running, caused a ripple nationally. The story was picked up Reuters, Yahoo! and other news outlets across the state and country. According to the ads producers, UOM&Y out of Austin, this is exactly how they planned it.
“Billy,” according to the ads creator, Stephen Hoffman, “has the local gun market wrapped up. The goal was to get some regional and national attention. To do that you have to understand one thing: most people do not understand, grasp or embrace irony. Like Alanis Morissette – I don’t believe for one second that she purposely wrote a song called “Ironic” that contained no irony which would then be sort of ironic. Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, people don’t get irony, especially liberal Democrats and the like. So…fire up a thinly veiled racist ad and watch it grow. They can’t help themselves. They’ll be forwarding it, blogging about it, ranting about it, whatever. And that will make the people we want to attract to the store that much more determined to go and purchase their guns and ammunition at Billy Dean’s Guns and Ammo.”
Hoffman did point out that there is a possible downside to this strategy. “We have to be careful,” continued Hoffman, “not to give Billy too much rope with which to hang himself. I mean, in a lot of ways, it’s an odd business strategy – not taking money from a large segment of the population. He has to stick to the specific types already identified. And don’t get into degrees of separation. For instance, what if a guy married a woman who voted for Obama? Love’s a weird thing after all. Will Billy turn that guy down by extension? These are things he has to watch.”
Billy himself is happy with the attention the ad has brought, but did lament that business has not taken the hoped for upswing. “Same old customers I’ve always had,” said Billy, “but some of them have not taken kindly to my new screening process. I mean, I’ve got to find out for sure they’re Christian, Anglo Republicans. I guess some have even complained to the NRA, as I received a call from the local chapter about my ‘unnecessary screening process.’”
The irony was lost on Billy Dean.