The Richmond, Va.-based publicly traded company--which was spun off from Circuit City in 2002--has 71 stores in 34 markets, and has done its own advertising in house for several years.
The new effort, for which spend was not disclosed, comprises two simultaneous campaigns, with different creative--one a brand effort, the other touting specific benefits of the CarMax experience--both via BooneOakley, Charlotte, NC, which was tapped for the effort two months ago.
The campaigns will be tested mid-October through February in 13 markets--including the Washington, DC area and the mid-Atlantic region; the southeast; Midwest, and West Coast markets.
The brand ads offer a Monty Python-esque take on what a CarMax in the Old West, and in Roman times, might look like. The ads, "HorseMax" and "ChariotMax," also present a new tagline: "It's amazing no one's thought of this before."
In the latter of the two ads, a mother and daughter drive into a ChariotMax dealer because they want to "upgrade this rust bucket." The salesman has worker Gluteus "appraise [their] chariot for free while [they] look around." A fine-looking chariot catches their eye. Turns out "it's practically brand new. The owner was eaten by a lion."
The other effort offers three present-day 30-second spots about CarMax's no-haggle pricing and money-back guarantee with the tagline "Just one of the gazillion reasons to shop at CarMax."
David Oakley, creative director at the agency, said CarMax approached the agency to create "water cooler advertising" that would grab peoples' attention. "They are growing by leaps and bounds right now. And they needed it." The agency is also doing radio, and Internet banner ads. No specific viral initiative is part of this test.
Oakley added that the ads will be tested in rotation, and the company will base a choice of which creative approach to give based on which built awareness and sales. "It's really testing them on air instead of through focus groups," said Oakley.
The company currently uses "The way car buying should be" as its tagline.
CarMax reported that sales for the second quarter, ending August 31, were up 18 percent to $1.93 billion versus the second quarter last year.