Aaron Wirtz is no idiot — or any of the worse names that haters use.
That may shock anyone who has watched him on a Super Car Guys television commercial. Most people see him as the maniacally grinning, goggle-eyed, arm-waving, wobbly-kneed, lame-rhyming, bug-eyed idio … uh, frontman for the dealership.
In real life, Wirtz, 33, is thoughtful and engaging and holds a master’s degree in fine arts. He’s also an actor.
“When it comes to a used car TV guy, people don’t think of the concept of acting,” he said. “It’s, ‘This guy has to be like that.’
People say, ‘Where do you get all that energy?’ and, ‘You’re on drugs’ and all these things you see on Twitter.”
His commercials have been a huge boon to his employer. Sales at Super Car Guys have risen strongly, Wirtz said, and the ever-present ads are one of the reasons.
Wirtz’s obnoxious/hilarious over-the-top pitchman grew out of ones used by other car dealers, but he put his stamp on it with years of acting, dancing, writing and spoons-playing. And the success has opened doors he didn’t expect to open.
It made him a celebrity who had to grow a thick skin.
It made him an expert on video marketing.
And it has now made him an entrepreneur with a new business: teaching other car dealers how to help sell as many cars as he has.
Price of celebrity
When he’s recognized — which is often, especially in Salina for some reason — people do a double-take or call out, “Hey, it’s the Super Car Guy!”
They are generally pretty nice, he said, at least to his face. He has shaken hands, done selfies and signed autographs.
“In person, the worst it ever gets is, ‘Man, all my friends think you’re annoying, but I think you’re OK,’ ” he said.
When it all becomes too much, he will put on glasses and a hat – Wirtz is bald – to avoid recognition.
“Everybody needs a break,” he said. “This face is a uniform I can’t remove.”
But Wirtz is far more than on-air talent. That job actually came a year after he was hired to run the company’s website and social marketing.
So, he spends a lot of time reading and interacting on the company’s Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus accounts.
Social media is where the meanness really comes out, he said. He tries to stay above it all, but it’s hard.
“This is the attention economy, and all that matters is getting the eyeballs,” he said. “Good or bad, it’s all just attention.
“And, on an intellectual level, yeah, that’s fine, but when they are talking about you … They’ll see my wedding ring and say things like, ‘Man, I’m sorry for your wife.’ ”
But he finished his thought by saying: “I’ve cried all the tears I’m going to cry, and now I’m taking those tears to the bank.”
Who is Aaron Wirtz?
Wirtz is a Wichita native and graduate of Northwest High. He danced ballet and tap, sang and acted as a youth. He sang for a rock band in high school.
He was a paid member of Music Theatre of Wichita and danced “The Nutcracker” at Friends University in 2001. In a funny comparison, he has photos of himself leaping, legs splayed, one as the fierce nutcracker prince and one as the crazed Super Car Guy.
He had dreams of being a Broadway dancer, but never chased it that hard. He taught himself how to DJ and put together a complicated electronic performance piece that he played at the Orpheum Theatre combining beats, music, video and dance.
But he didn’t have much clear direction career-wise. He attended a couple of colleges, then went to work for a call center, InfoNXX, where he became a trainer.
He met his wife, Reby, when he was flown to the Philippines to train call center workers. When that center shut down in 2009, he decided to go to Wichita State University to finish his bachelor’s degree.
He got his degree in English in 2010. He earned his master’s of fine arts degree in fiction writing from WSU in 2013.
He went to work for Super Car Guys as the social marketing manager in 2012 by answering an ad on Craigslist. He was making a small stipend teaching college English, but car sales paid better.
The rest is history.
Super Car Guys owner Scott Pitman wanted him to do the ads, based on a crazy car owner in North Carolina. So Wirtz started wacky and got more so as time went on, adding a crazy walk or a trampoline split.
His best friend, David Lord, owner of Air House Music Academy and fellow high school rock band member, said he was amazed when he first saw the Super Car Guys commercials. The character is crazy but still borrows from the real Wirtz.
“He is sort of a jack of all trades, but in his own unique way,” Lord said. “When I saw the commercials I was really surprised that he had found a way to package all of them together in such a funny and entertaining way.”
Wirtz shakes his head that it has taken this long to find a true career path. Sometimes creative types have trouble setting concrete, short-term goals, he said.
But he thinks he’s found it this time: He is shaping himself as a marketing entrepreneur.
He remains Super Car Guys’ marketing manager two days a week. Then he takes three days a week to develop his own business, CurveBreak, a video production and marketing agency.
Alleigh Allen, owner of Models and Images, wanted to update the business’ image. She met Wirtz at Art Aid a few years ago and e-mailed him one day.
He’s been terrific, she said. People who are so creative aren’t always tuned in business-wise.
“He combines both sides,” she said. “He is on top of everything.”
He has spoken at automobile dealer conferences on reputation management and social media video marketing. He has just launched an online service, Dealerography, which consists of training videos for car dealers on how to better develop and shoot videos.
He knows people have a hard time matching up his wacky persona with his real personality. He loves that look on people’s faces when they get it.
“I love harnessing the element of surprise,” he said.
“People generally might know me from these commercials, you might think a certain way about me and how I am, and then when they see a little bit more of the character that the surprise is so compelling.
“That is what makes the experience truly memorable.”