Top Six Spokesmen for Full-size Trucks

Spokesmen Group Photo II

By Mike Magda

Setting brand loyalty completely aside, which of the famous voices and faces of full-size trucks appeal to real truck owners? Granted, they were all hired to sell a product, and their effectiveness as a marketing tool is a worthy debate topic for financial analysts.

We’re just wondering: Who would be the most interesting, informative and entertaining celebrity at a table full of knowledgeable truck enthusiasts? Who do you think can carry on a lively and intelligent conversation about full-size pickups without all the flame throwing and marque bashing that often clogs the web these days?

We’ve narrowed down the field to six: Denis Leary, Mike Rowe, and Toby Keith for Ford, Howie Long and Tim Allen for Chevrolet; and Sam Elliott for Ram. This is simply a just-for-fun comparison, but we are going to be somewhat serious and not include clowns or acrobats.

There’s no number-crunching of empirical data, and our exercise has few subjective criteria. It just boils down to who’s closest to being the archetype truck owner that we’d love to have around the campfire and carry on an insightful conversation about trucks.

No. 6: Denis Leary

Spokesmen Denis Leary

It’s funny, the spokesman least likely to know anything about trucks is probably the voice behind the most effective truck commercials we’ve seen lately. While Denis may know his way around a firetruck, we doubt he has a strong opinion on electronic versus manual-shift transfer cases. Yet, this smash-mouth comedian’s highly recognizable timbre and trademark hyper delivery fits perfectly with Ford’s rapid-fire storytelling images that basically carpet-bomb the viewer’s senses with the simple but hard-hitting feature-function-benefit message. These ads are so potent that they’ve spurred parodies, and Denis’ contributions have been mocked as well. Despite the popularity of the ads and Denis’ biting commentaries on life, we’re guessing this chain-smoker wouldn’t last two cigarettes into a hardcore truck discussion about the regen cycles of particulate filters.

No. 5: Sam Elliott
Spokesmen Sam Elliot

Since Sam doesn’t physically appear in the Ram TV ads (we only hear his voice), we base much of our perception on images culled from his movie career. That means he’s likely to spend more time on a motorcycle or horse than behind the wheel of a pickup. But that doesn’t diminish the impact that his deep, resonating voice can have with truck shoppers. Sam has a set of pipes that would make John Facenda bow down and pray to Detroit. Heck, Sam’s voice even has its own Facebook page. Give him the right script, and he’ll sound like an authentic, rugged truck owner. The beauty of this ad strategy is that Ram can create memorable, artistic images to complement Sam’s rich voice.

Sadly, however, we don’t get to know Sam very well, and we can’t determine if he could tell a Posi from a Locker. A conversation with him would probably drift away from trucks to his leading ladies. But dang, those Ram commercials are a work of art with his voice leading the way.

No. 4: Howie Long
Spokesmen Howie Long

Howie has been MIA from Chevy marketing for some time. But looking back, what a waste of a strong, brawny Hall of Fame defensive lineman who was just plain “caveman” vicious while playing for football’s most hated team. Just based on his fighting-in-the-trenches persona, we’d like to believe that Howie drove to practice in a Chevy dually with a Bell Tech four-to-six-inch drop and cool-for-its-day scallop paint job.

Chevy had an incredible opportunity to create an authentic truck-owning spokesman. Instead, Howie’s commercial appearances looked like Rachel Zoe dressed him for a man-host auction at a PETA fund-raiser. And we won’t even get into those ridiculous “man-step” and “heated steering wheel” commercials forced on him. However, Howie likely knows more about trucks than Sam Elliott. He was part of a series of informational videos produced by GM in which he discussed the advantages of the Silverado over the competition with the truck’s lead engineer, Gary White. The conversation sometimes turns a little folksy, but at least Howie was listening.

No. 3: Mike Rowe
Spokesmen Mike Rowe

By now, Mike Rowe is as synonymous with Ford as the Blue Oval. He’s also heavily associated with pulling crabs out of the Bering Sea, shaking his butt for the ladies and sticking his hands in unmentionable animal cavities. In other words, he’s spreading himself pretty thin these days and may have more on his mind than the latest diesel torque numbers.

Like Howie, Mike has spoken with engineers in customer information videos. But Mike seemed more eager to crack wise than learn about the truck. We’re sure that Mike drives a truck, and he is arguably the most personable of the five with a lot great non-truck stories to tell. He would be a welcomed contributor to our truck conversation, if he can stay on topic.

No. 2: Tim Allen
Spokesmen Tim Allen

No question that Tim Allen owned the most bad-ass truck of any automotive spokesperson, and he knows how to do a burnout. We’ve talked with Tim at a Detroit speed shop and at SEMA, and he is extremely knowledgeable about the auto industry. He’ll carry on a vibrant conversation, and he knows how to time his quips — a comedic quality still maturing with Mike Rowe.

Around truck guys, Tim will hold his own, but for how long? Tim’s extensive background in hot rodding and street performance may tempt him to wander away from a truck conversation. But we like Tim, and Chevy needs to use his image and character instead of just his voice, which isn’t as recognizable as Rowe’s or as powerful as Sam Elliott’s. When the next-generation Silverado is introduced, Chevy should showcase Tim’s knowledge in a series of tech-feature videos directed solely at hardcore truck consumers. Allow the engineers and Tim to really talk trucks in our language. Just let Tim dress himself. 


No. 1: Toby Keith
Spokesmen Toby Keith

Ford has used country singers like Alan Jackson and Irlene Mandrell in the past to promote their pickups, but none has the truck cred like Toby Keith. We believe Toby when he says he grew up with trucks. He likely drives a truck more often than any of our six contenders, if only because he’s always driving a Ford truck in his movies.

Toby may not know the difference between dentside and bumpside Ford trucks, but we’re pretty sure he’ll listen to fellow truck owners talk about them. Toby looks like a truck owner, acts like a truck owner and looks comfortable talking with truck owners. He’s our pick for the spokesman most likely to fit in our truck community.

Comments

How in the world did Howie Long make this list? He's the worst ever!

Mike Rowe without a doubt, most of the rest are posers...Howie long is a girl.

It's all about image over substance. Pay no attention to the pickup behind the curtain.

I agree with Toby Keith for Ford but where the hell is George Strait for Chevy??? We're talking the King of Country representing the ultimate truck Chevy Silverado... (well it used to be anyway before GMC ruined Chevrolet).

Mike Rowe is a solid 3rd place compared to 1st Strait and 2nd Keith. "Pack it light pack it heavy.. Take a truck Take a Chevy."

Mike Rowe all the way. He's actually pushing for more focus on the trades and skilled labor when sadly, in our day and age, such jobs are often looked down upon. He's probably the smartest and definitely has the best sense of humor among the spokesmen listed.
With that said, the only one on the list I don't like is the annoying Howie. He reminds me of the "Mr. Gumby" characters on Monty Python's Flying Circus.... "My brain hurts!"

All you Howie Long haters, Eat S..T and Die! I love Howie Long and think he does a great job promoting the Chevrolet Silverado. If he was promoting ford you ford girly gay men would be saying he's the best. Now have a nice cup of Shut the F... UP!

Mike Rowe does commercials about his jeans making his fat but look good. Mike Rowe is an idiot and a ford girly gay men paid to say fords are the most root tooting truck on the road. Howie Long would kick Mike Rowes Donkey rear end!

@ Kevin. Amen! I tried to find those on youtube but the old official ads are gone. Only his friend Stuart Cavender in Texas has the local ones up. And that song "Run" you quoted is one of the best country songs ever. I wathed him perform that at a sold out arena a few years ago and when he said "Take a Chevy" the crowd literally went just crazy! What a moment that was. I'd agree Toby Keith is a solid second place behind Mr.Strait with Mike rowe being a solid third. When Howie started doing ads for Chevy trucks it about made me ill.

I'm not sure George Strait would put his reputation on the line for Chevy Trucks anymore though. Not in a big way like he once did. I think he's just helping out an old friend in texas now. Ford Trucks is where it's at for the cowboy crowd these days. Those solid axle off road country boys prefer Super Duty's and those King Ranch interiors are 'Pure Country' pardon the pun. Oddly enough, that premium leather and King Ranch package would sound more at home in a Silverado. Silverado just sounds rough and tough like an old western cowboy would drive. I agree about GMC too. I hate that horrible brand. Let Beyonce or one of those stupid ghetto rappers do GMC ads. They can rap about pimping in their Denali on 20's or some nonsense.

Sorry about the double post Mark. Feel free to delete one of them.

@JimG. - You could post that a thousand times my friend. Every word is dead on. I agree with you fully!

I drive a GMC 2500 Duramax and I hate Howie Long. I don't like the smug "look down on the others" attitude and the "I wouldn't be caught dead in a Camry" (or something along those lines) attitude either. Sam Elliot's voice works well in the Ram commercials and I think Mike Rowe does a good job too. He gets the point across without being a pompous ass.

Definitely need more Tim Allen grunting when talking about huge trailer hitches or screwdriver resistant seat fabrics.
When I stuck my head in a Hyundai at the auto show on Friday, I was greeted by The Dude. I think Joe Isuzu is one of the all-time grat, along with Mr. K: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yutaka_Katayama. I would put either one of them ahead of Howie and Mr Angry.

I don't buy a truck based on whatever Hollywood image promotes it. Auto manufacturers should save their money and put it to good use somewhere else. Like building quality trucks...

How about using a real person that really uses a truck
rather than people who pretend to be and do things.
Like my fellow farmers that put a ton of coffee in the bed and need 4 low to get to the paved road, or someone like my contractor brother who has 300,000+ miles on his truck that looks like hell but will always get you to and from the worksite.
We all know or maybe are real truck owners like this!

As a Chevy truck man And Tim Allen fan I have to say I really like Tim. However, Chevy is not using Tim to his full potential. Yes he's more of a hot rod guy but as pointed out, he knows his way around mechanicals. He could nail Mike Rowe to the wall IF (and that's a huge if) Chevy trucks provided Tim with solid ammunition with the next Chevy truck. For instance, with the heavy duty's there's no way Tim could put up a fight against Mike right now. As a Chevy truck (1500) owner even I can see that. I wouldn't even buy a Chevy HD because of the poor suspension and frame design. Tim would be foolish to challenge Mike on that. And the problem is I don't see Chevy ever fixing it so the HD is a lost cause in my book.

For the 1500's though, the next Silverado has the potential to be everything the Ford is and more IF (and this is another big if) GM let's it. The problem there is GM still insists on holding back Chevrolet trucks for the sake of their GMC corporate truck. As a spokesman, Tim would look foolish if let's say Mike pointed out the interior sophistication of the Ford (which he does right now in those Chevy owners switching to Ford commercials). What would Tim counter with? GM needs to set Chevy free of GMC bondage. Take the dog off the chain to let him fight. Then Tim Allen would be the winner here as would Chevrolet. I'd put George Strait as second best behind Tim Allen. Really, Chevrolet should be using George And Tim. Get the country crowd and the technical crowd both just like Ford does with Mike and Toby.

Sam Elliot is the best,no nonsense tough guy,great for a tough truck !! He has the best voice for the adds,any add with his voice it makes you take notice !

Mike Rowe is good but kind of goofy just like the Ford truck its good but goofy !! Same as Toby Keith,he is good but kind of goofy,him and Willie smoke dope together,enough said.

Same with the comedians they act a fool so they are goofy and cant take them serious when pitching an add for anything !!

GM spokesmen are like GM,forgotten and nobody cares !

For the longest time I thought Howie Long was Dan Marino who used to star in commercials for a chain of car dealerships.

He rode on the coat tails of someone else's looks and popularity.

Then again, ineffective if you don't know who either are.

Howie Long is a girl? Hahahaha... that's pretty funny considering that he ate offensive linemen for lunch back in the day. He is the only one on this list that actually had a tough job. He'd probably still whip the other five combined.

Sam Elliot for sure ! He is the only one that sounds like a real man and its great for the only real truck !

the Denis Leary guy for ford is annoying makes me wanna punch my tv out every time i hear his voice same with Howie Long

Hmmm,sounds like Sam Elliot is the clear winner here.

As you pointed out the "conversation with him would probably drift away from trucks to his leading ladies"

What else is there in life,but hot trucks/cars and hotter women !!! Sounds like a real man to me ,hands down the winner !!! Sam is the man !!! Ram is the truck !!! Ladies are my game !!!

@johnny doe ,

True,he sounds like a bickering old woman.

I think the list is pretty correct, period

ITS FUNNY TO ME THAT THEY ALL PAY MONSTER MONEY FOR THESE SPOKESPEOPLE.

EVER WATCH A TOYOTA COMMERCIAL? THEY JUST TALK ABOUT THE VEHICLE, NO NEED TO CHURCH IT UP... IT SELLS ITSELF. love it or hate it you know its true. They couldve used Ivan "Ironman" Stewart but they never did, maybe that will change one day, till then i think its pretty classy that they dont play the bashing game, nor misleading ads just facts.

The Dennis Leary ads message: "If you're over 40 and your favorite TV show is still Sesame Street, Ford 150 is your truck!"

I like Ford, but their advertising would make it very difficult for me to own one.

Out of the six spokesmen listed, I will have say Toby Keith had the biggest impact! He is by far my #1 pick!

"EVER WATCH A TOYOTA COMMERCIAL? THEY JUST TALK ABOUT THE VEHICLE, NO NEED TO CHURCH IT UP... IT SELLS ITSELF"

The numbers don't agree.

And you ever listen to a Tundra commercial? Talk about trying to bathe the truck in aural testosterone.

One thing I'll give Denis Leary is that he is from the depressed working-class city Worcester, MA. No luxury living there.

I am not going to base a product purchase on any spokesperson but if I had a choice of who to sit down with and have a good conversation over a beer it would probably be Mike Rowe. He would probably talk about Fords but I am sure that he is well versed in many other subjects as well and I think he would not show any hostility toward me regardless of the fact that I own a Chevy (I also own a Ford). Since I am not brand biased I would listen to him and enjoy a good conversation. Mike Rowe has a very high likeability factor.

I am sorry, when I bought my last new truck in 2007, I never once got turned on by a commercial. I did it as a mechanic, Freightliner used the 6.7 for 2 years before Dodge got it and I was not impressed, and their automatic transmissions are a fail. Ford's engines at the time were a fail. GMC has a bullet proof transmission, the engine is quiet and powerful and they backed it up with a warranty. As an employee of of Daimlerchrysler I could of gotten a deep discount to buy the Dodge, and I could get a manual.
I bought the GMC 3500 srw crew cab 4x4 duramax.

I do not buy a truck based on spokesman. My favorite adds were the "Like A rock" commercials with Bob Seger playing in the background.
I'm not a football fan and the Chevy adds made poor Howie Long look like a wannabe pansy metrosexual. WTF? You take one of the toughest football players around and give him that kind of material to work with? What a waste.
I've never been a Denis Leary fan, but Ford does use his voice and personality to great effect.
Toby keith , I'm not a country fan, but he does put foreward a tough image.
Sam Elliott - great voice, perfectly matched to the Ram comercials. I love those commercials because of his rich voice.
Mike Rowe - he is a funny guy, but i think his working man dirty jobs routine is getting old.
Tim Allen - funny guy, seems to be past his prime as far as celebrity media goes.

@Lou I agree with you again. I like Mike Rowe but he will fade too. Buy what you like based on your needs, take good care of what you buy, and run it for a long time. Pay yourself back first and not some spokesperson.

PS-I would mind seeing Joe Isuzu again. At least he was funny and I did pay attention to him.

I like the Ram commercial narrated by Sam Elliot where the Ram meets the Super Duty in the old west town and then you see all the Cummins powered heavy trucks and equipment 'backing up' the Ram. That's a great ad, and Ford has no comeback for it. Ever notice Ford doesn't offer the Powerstroke in their F-650 and 750? Cumnmins is the only diesel Ford uses in their commercial duty trucks!

Ads are supposed to create a certain favorable image in your mind of the product, in addition to providing information (or selective information). In that regard, Ram ads with Sam Elliott have the greatest impression on me. His voice just seems to envelope all the favorable characteristics of a truck: toughness, reliability, rugged individualism, and loyalty. I wouldn't buy a truck based purely on the ad, but damn if those Ram ads aren't effective.

Also, Sam Elliott is great in Coors ads as well, pretty much for the same reasons I listed above.

@Lou. Like A Rock was the best commercial campaign ever invented for trucks! I agree with you.. What happened to Chevy?? And Why didn't they keep that slogan?? Howie does look like a metrosexual pansy. Stick him over at GMC with Beyonce and some ghetto Denali prancing screwballs like JimG said. It is Gm's Metrosexual Chevy brand afterall. Yuck.

Even that old picture at the top of this thread is awful. Get that black pos up front out of there.

I am going to go with Sam Elliott in this one.

If I had to pick a favorite, I'd go with Sam Elliott and Ram.

Toby Keith is also my top choice as a spokesman. He has an excellent combination of voice, appearance, knowledge and humor. And he's authentic--a third generation Ford truck owner. His grandfather, father and Toby have all been Ford truck owners! A wise choice by the Ford advertising people.

Mr. Baseball sounds pretty cool!

I vote for Toby Keith all the way-- He has been a hard worker; uses his Ford trucks on his ranch; on stage and I dont think he would support what he wouldnt use himself. He is a touch guy in business and he knows how to sell a product I love his Ford commercials ; wish they put him back on the commercials sgain. I cant stand the guy they use now ; makes me sick !!!!!!!!! Sam is my second pick--and Howie( what a whimp!(

Howie Long is too smarmy. Nothing against Chevy, but I found his commercials to be a turn-off.

Howie Long is the only real man in this group. Only a sissy would promote a Ford. And to prove it just look at the dorks promoting for Ford.

For those of you that mentioned George Strait, that was what I was wondering. Why wasn't George Strait not included in this list? I'd rather see George on the list than that joker called Howie Long. I remember when Chevy Trucks was a tour sponsor for George for a few years and the reason they stopped being a sponsor, I don't know. I even remember there being a Chevy commercial with George in it called 'She's All I Got.'

As far as Ford is concerned, some of you may remember, but right around the same time George Strait was doing his thing with Chevy, Alan Jackson was a spokesman for Ford Trucks and in return, I think Ford was a tour sponsor for him as well.

ummm i thought Tim Allen was a Ford guy or at least involved with Fords? he races mustangs in cali and was/is involved with Steve Saleen
I like the Mike Rowe commercials, Howie Long was terrible, those chevy commercials just made Chevy lool like idiots imo. The AL and MAX commercials were also lame.
Sam Elliot def my fav...too bad its for Dodge!

My vote is for Frank for the Ford spokesman. Arrogant, childish, narrow minded, and biggest troll on this blog. That is a perfect fit for Ford. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Agree about Tim Allen, they should use his face in them too or something. after I saw his name on the list and watched the commercial, if I didn't know it was him from the article, I would NOT of known it was him in the commercial.

I like Mike Rowe and Sam Elliot.

F**ing hate Howie Long though.

Tim Allen would have to say " Little 5.3 Chevy, couldn't make it up a hill without a bunch of downshifting....SO, I REWIRED IT!"



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