ROCKFORD, IL — For 19 weeks in 1978, a local new/used car dealership was said to be brimming with “record numbers of walk-in customers,” all because of a weekly super hero newspaper cartoon advertisement featuring a caped car salesman!
It all began after local ad legend Terry R. Gossell approached the Captain with this unique, one-of-a-kind project, for a specific car dealer. Within days, VA-ROOM! “Super Swede” was born!
The title character represented “Swede” Clark, the dealership owner, who transformed into “Super Swede” by inserting a car key into his magic belt buckle.
Drawing on his comic book story-telling knowledge, Captain Cartoon plotted and wrote each strip — up to the last panel — where Ms Gossell added the all-important sales message.
The entertaining cartoon story, combined with those sales messages, worked, and Super Swede’s newspaper comic was the talk of the town! Kids and families gravitated to the super hero, who was portrayed in real life by a 7-foot-tall costumed actor.
Billboards, T-shirts and TV/radio commercials were produced, launched and aired — all culled from the actual strip. A “circus atmosphere” prevailed during the entire ad campaign.
But there’s even more to the story: “Super Swede” went on to be awarded the prestigious “Best Newspaper Ad Campaign in 1978” honor by the Northern Illinois Ad Council.
Why did Super Swede work so well? “It stood out on a classified ad page, where it appeared in the local daily each week,” says the Captain. “I intentionally focused on a good, entertaining story ‘with payoff,’ while Terry wrote the final words,” he says.
“Super heroes are universally seen as “good guys,” says the Captain. “Even today! They’ll always be great tools for ad campaigns, because folks wlll always love ’em.”
For more on comic strip advertising, visit the Captain’s official website.