SPOKANE, Wash. — I couldn’t tell you the first time I heard the voice.
Trying to recall that would be comparable to trying to remember my first day in news, or the first time I drove in Spokane snow. The voice is something that’s become familiar enough, however, and it’s not surprising when you hear it again and again.
I most often hear the voice while working out. My gym plays Spokane radio stations on full blast. I’ll often be lifting weights, running on the treadmill, or attempting to crunch my abs when the voice calls out.
“Woo-wee!” it cries.
It’s not just any commercial. It’s that one commercial that any fellow Spokanite is likely to know and talk about.
“I’m your dealer for the people!”
His name is Mitch. He works for Auto Credits Sales.
Auto Credit Sales, a used car dealership, has locations in Spokane, Spokane Valley, Post Falls, and Hayden. “We’re on a mission to put the fun back into buying a car and treat our customers with the respect they deserve,” the company’s website reads. On their radio ads, Mitch can often be heard sharing the same message accompanied by his signature “woo-wee” tagline. The ads have spanned from straight forward sales pitches, to an energetic cover of the song “Without Me” by Eminem.
In the KREM newsroom, we’ve sometimes spoken of the commercials’ prevalence. We all hear them. On Halloween, while looking at photos viewers had submitted of their costumes, we noticed one woman who dressed up as “Mitch from Auto Credit Sales.”
After chuckling and remarking at the creativity of the woman’s costume, I wondered to myself: what does “Mitch from Auto Credit Sales” actually look like? Would he look like the person I envisioned behind a microphone, recording a radio ad to tell me of that month’s car specials? Is his name really Mitch?
A phone call, an email, and roughly a week later, I was on my way to find out.
After pulling into the Auto Credit location along Sprague in Spokane Valley, I was greeted by an eager and friendly car salesman. “I’m here to see the big guy,” I said, figuring he was aware of my appointment. My red KREM jacket didn’t hide anything. “Ah, here to see Mitch,” the employee replied.
Seconds later, there he was. He stood taller than me, had brown hair, and a goatee. I really didn’t have a firm idea of what Mitch would look like, but his normal appearance still seemed to surprise me.
I wouldn’t be alone in that regard.
"The first thing [customers] say is 'You don't look anything like I thought you'd look like,'” Mitch told me not long after. He had been through this routine before. By now, meeting people who had heard him dozens of times on the radio was the norm. Mitch added that another frequent comment included: "Your radio voice is different than your real voice."
Mitch’s real last name is Vogel. Aside from voicing the recurrent ads, he’s the operations manager for Auto Credit Sales. Vogel told me that the car business has been his life for the last two decades, originally starting as a salesman and then working his way into management. "I ultimately got into the car business 20 years ago, and three and a half years ago came back to this company," Vogel said. Prior to working in the automotive industry, he ran restaurants. Being a salesperson was in his blood.
Aside from his own story, I wanted to ask Vogel about the radio commercials. Was there something that inspired them? Where did “woo-wee” come from?
Vogel says the ads first began in March of 2017. While working with a local advertising group, the talking points and the lines emphasizing the company’s “For the People” mantra began to take shape. "I wanted to make sure that it was recognizable, and that people would remember it," Vogel said of the early ads. He said that he wanted his company’s enthusiasm to be translated to their listeners, hence Vogel’s energetic “radio voice” (his real voice sounds much different).
Included in one of the ads was the first “woo-wee.” "Woo-wee came to be, and it kind of stuck," Vogel said, adding that it’s hard to pinpoint specifically how the phrase came about. "That's the deepest part of the body,” he said. “When people are super happy, they ‘woo-wee.’ When they win a million dollars, they're ‘woo-weeing.’ Every deal that I do, every single month, I want to make sure people ‘woo-wee’ when they hear it."
Over a year later, Vogel has cut several different ads, most with the signature line and enthusiasm.
Vogel says it’s certainly brought attention to Auto Credit Sales. He’s not complaining about that by any means. "I just wanted to make sure that when I was on the radio, people would stop and listen to what we were doing," he said.
The car salesman admits that not everyone who hears the ads may be a fan. They play often. In one version, Mitch addresses listeners by saying “Whether you love me or hate me…”
To that, Vogel makes it clear that the “Mitch” that can be heard on the radio is much different than he is. The “Mitch” on the commercials is simply a character, Vogel says.
"I would say 'That is an advertisement,’” he points out. “I understand that you're hearing it a lot, but it's just an advertisement." Vogel says the goal of the ads is to “get your attention.”
However, a new Auto Credit Sales radio spot is grabbing attention for a much different purpose. Recently, the stations running the commercials began sharing a new, and more toned-down message from Mitch.
“This month, I wanted to tell you about a group of people that are amazing and deserve recognition,” the message goes. Mitch is speaking on a serious and genuine note.
It’s an ad mentioning Auto Credit Sales’ new efforts to fundraise for a local veterans’ charity. Newby-Ginnings, a Post Falls-based non-profit, supports veterans, active military members, and Gold Star families. The organization collects donations ranging from household items to food and clothing to help veterans in need. Vogel says that Auto Credit Sales’ four car lots are now Newby-Ginnings donation stations. All forms of support are welcome.
"As many people who can help them will be beneficial," Vogel said of the partnership, adding that the donation drive is permanent.
After chatting with Vogel in his office for several minutes, I set out to gather some video (B-roll, as we call it in the news business) of the car lot. The company’s slogan, “Dealer for the People,” could be seen everywhere. "We have the ability to help every single person that walks in our door,” Vogel had said earlier. “We don't kick anyone out."
As I was getting close to wrapping up the day, I ventured back into the showroom to chat with Vogel once more. The music of a local radio station could be heard over a speaker system installed in the ceiling. As I started to head out the door, something caught my ear. It was the voice similar to the man who I had been interviewing several minutes prior. The voice. Not Mitch Vogel, the Operations Manager, but the “radio Mitch” personality he had made clear was a separate character.
Vogel and I made eye contact as soon as we both heard one of the familiar radio ads, remarking about the irony of the situation. “This is where I tell everyone in here to be quiet and listen,” Vogel joked, cracking a smile.
It was a fitting end to the day. As I listened to “Radio Mitch” in the background and chatted with the real “Mitch,” I understood what Vogel was after. The voice on the radio was as advertisement, destined solely to live on the airways. The person standing in front of me was the manager of an auto business, likely thinking what the radio character’s next spot would be.