Joe Isuzu’s New Role Is a Natural : Notorious ‘Liar’ Pitches Burgers for Maker of Whoppers

Times Staff Writer

The world knows that Joe Isuzu tells whoppers. Now the company that sells Whoppers has signed him up as a pitchman.

When Burger King introduces a new hamburger next month, actor David Leisure--who has portrayed Joe Isuzu for more than two years--will be hyping both the new burger, Big Cheese, and a new model Isuzu truck, Big Joe, in a promotion for both companies.

“It just made sense to piggyback on his notoriety,” said Bob Brown, director of marketing services for Burger King’s Los Angeles operations. “It seemed like a natural” to tie the new truck and the new hamburger together, he said. In addition to the commercial, both companies will offer contests featuring both products and the chance to win prizes.


Dividing Costs

The commercial, filmed in Los Angeles a week ago, will initially air in 11 test markets, but not in Southern California.

The two-week campaign will be most intensive in Northern California, and if it succeeds there, Joe Isuzu may eventually peddle hamburgers coast to coast, Burger King says.

Although the ad is technically a Burger King commercial--created by Burger King’s ad firm--the $1.5-million costs of creating and placing the ad are being evenly split between Burger King and American Isuzu, said Burger King’s Brown.

In the ad, created by the Los Angeles office of NW Ayer, Joe Isuzu drives up in a pickup and says: “Hi, I’m Joe Isuzu and I used my new Isuzu pickup to carry a 2,000-pound cheeseburger.” Then, a subtitle flashes on the screen, “Uh oh, here we go again.”

Joe Isuzu next discusses Burger King’s new cheeseburger, and tells viewers that if they buy one at Burger King, they could win an Isuzu truck. The subtitle flashes, “He’s not lying.” In the closing shot, Joe Isuzu drives off with a 6-foot-tall cheeseburger (Styrofoam, of course) hanging off the end of his truck.

Executives at American Isuzu Inc. hope that the tie-in with Burger King will help increase awareness of their new model pickup. “I guess you could say Joe Isuzu is a little bit on loan,” said Leon Rosen, director of marketing at Isuzu. “It gives us an opportunity to extend our product to their stores.”


T-Shirts and Posters

The idea for the tie-in actually came from a Fountain Valley marketing firm, the Promotion Group. The company was separately handling promotions for Burger King and Isuzu and decided that a logical connection could be drawn between a cheeseburger called Big Cheese and a pickup nicknamed Big Joe. What’s more, one model of the truck is even sold in a shade similar to the red and yellow colors of Burger King.

The promotion will also feature Joe Isuzu posters and T-shirts at some Burger King stores. “Our dealers love it,” said Isuzu’s Rosen. “Obviously, Burger King stores are a lot more heavily trafficked than our showrooms.”