No Lie: Networks Reject Isuzu Ad Using Ortega

Associated Press

When President Reagan compared Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega to “that fellow in the Isuzu commercial” in a recent speech, he gave the car importer’s ad makers an idea.

They made a new Isuzu commercial that includes the President’s remarks and some film of Ortega delivering a speech in a foreign language as captions purport to translate what he is saying into a plea for a deal on a sporty car.

The approach is similar to that the importer has taken for the past two years, in which it has corrected with captions the outrageous claims that its smarmy spokesman, the fictional Joe Isuzu, makes about Isuzu cars and trucks.

The ad, which has been rejected by the three major television networks, begins with a tape of a Feb. 2 speech by Reagan in which he encourages congressional support for the Nicaraguan rebels.


One network executive said the ad was a publicity stunt. “I think they were well aware that it would be rejected and saw an opportunity for free publicity,” said Harvey Dzodin, vice president of commercial clearance at the ABC television network.

Fictitious Translation

The President said that when he hears the Nicaraguan leaders making promises, he is reminded of the Isuzu commercials and thinks “there should be subtitles under them telling the real story.”

The commercial says Ortega made a speech about Isuzu the next day. It shows Ortega delivering an address while subtitles provide a fictitious translation: “Hey, Joe Isuzu. Could you cut me a deal on an Impulse Turbo? I hear the Impulse is faster than a speeding bullet. I could use that in a car.”

The ad ends with the now-familiar voice of Joe Isuzu saying: “You have my word on it.”

Jerry Della Femina, head of Isuzu’s ad agency, Della Femina Travisano & Partners, said that as soon as he heard of Reagan’s remarks, he knew “we had a terrific commercial.”

But the TV networks didn’t see it that way. Della Femina said while they usually take a week or so to review an ad, ABC and NBC rejected the new Isuzu spot in “seven or eight minutes” while CBS took a full day. Dom Giofre, a spokesman for the NBC television network, said NBC found the ad “in poor taste.” CBS and ABC policies prohibit airing ads featuring unauthorized use of the President, network officials said.

Della Femina conceded that no effort was made to get permission from either Reagan or Ortega for use in the ad. He said his client still wants to get the ad on the air on either independent stations or cable networks.


He argued that Ortega “has been treated a lot worse” by others.

No offense intended, Della Femina said. You have his word on it.