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Gary Lay, GWL Advertising, Inc.

Gary Lay

Listen to Learn:

  • The story of surviving the 1965 Titan II missile crisis near Searcy, AR
  • How TV advertising changed with the introduction of cable channels
  • How to grow a one client advertising business into a dynasty
  • How perception and consistency builds an image

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Gary Lay was born in Wellington, Texas and grew up in Clinton, Arkansas. In 1965, Gary survived the Titan II Missile disaster in Searcy, Arkansas, being one of the two survivors in an explosion that killed 53 people. He received his Bachelor’s of Business Administration from UA Fayetteville and in 1993 opened GWL Advertising. He is the owner of SeeSpotRun Productions, GWL Digital and GWL Advertising, all headquartered in Little Rock.

Gary has served on the Boards of Pleasant Valley Country Club and the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation and is the past chairman of the American Cancer Society Gala. He and his companies have also sponsored Boys and their Toys event for Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation, the UALR Spectacular and the Ronald McDonald House Social.

Kerry McCoy and Gary Lay



[0:00:09.6] G: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider’s view into starting and running a business, the ups and downs of risk-taking and the commonalities of successful people.

Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.


[0:00:31.2] KM: Thank you, Gray. Before we start, I want to let you know if you miss any part of today’s show, or want to hear it again, we’ll share it. There is a way and son Gray will tell you how.

[0:00:41.1] G: Listen to all UIYB past and present interviews by going to flagandbanner.com and clicking on radio show, or subscribe to our podcasts wherever you like to listen, by searching Up In your Business with Kerry McCoy. Also, you may simply like flagandbanner.com’s Facebook page to watch our live stream and receive timely notifications of upcoming guests. Back to you, Kerry.

[0:01:03.9] KM: My guest today is Mr. Gary Wayne Lay. I love that name. It is so Southern.

[0:01:10.6] GL: Thank you.

[0:01:11.8] KM: Gary Wayne Lay, I bet that's what your mother said, Gary Wayne Lay. Anyway, founder of GWL Advertising, See Spot Run Productions and GWL Digital, all headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. You know his good works every time you see a Landers automotive, Middleton heating air or heart hospital ad on TV. Yes, Gary is the man behind those commercials and others.

His company founded in 1993 currently has 60 clients across 13 states. At first, you might think, “Oh, just another ad man.” Wait, Mr. Gary Wayne Lay is one of two survivors of the 1965 Titan II missile crisis near Searcy, Arkansas. In the past 20 years, he has had several brushes with his mortality and says, “I truly believe there's something special God wants me to do. I just need to figure it out and that what we all think.”

It is a pleasure to welcome to the table the luckiest man I know, Mr. Gary Lay.

[0:02:16.3] GL: Thank you very much. Good to be here.

[0:02:18.0] KM: Thank you. Before we get into the business of advertising, which is a hard, complex, really intangible business, I've got to hear about your Titan II survivor story. Everybody I mention it to, thinks it's the one that happened in 1980, because we also had a Titan II missile crisis in 1980, but yours was in 1965, the first one. You were 17-years-old, a high school graduate, soon to be going off to play football at college for the University of Arkansas and it was your first day on the job. What happened?

[0:02:55.6] GL: Yeah, it was the first day when it blew. What people didn't know, I worked there the whole summer before. My dad was a business manager for the steamfitters in Little Rock, so he got me a job as a laborer. I was able to work there in the summer. Kerry, it was an incredible job. 68 degrees and during the summer when it was a 105 in Arkansas.

[0:03:16.5] KM: Why was it 68 degrees? Because you were –

[0:03:18.0] GL: It was a totally air-conditioned underground, like the big city.

[0:03:20.5] KM: Oh. Oh, I see.

[0:03:21.7] GL: Like a big city underground. I got to work there all summer. Made some money where I could go get ready to go to school the next year.

[0:03:30.1] KM: That was the year of your junior college.

[0:03:32.7] GL: That was between my junior –

[0:03:33.7] KM: I mean, of your junior’s –

[0:03:34.6] GL: Junior-senior year.

[0:03:35.3] KM: Yeah.

[0:03:36.8] GL: You'll had aspirations of – I had an aspirations of playing ball in Fayetteville. Now let's be real honest, I was a pretty decent high school player, but those boys at Fayetteville were a lot better than I was. God probably did me a favor, but not put me through that. What happened was that fall, that next summer before I go to school, I wanted to really be in incredible shape, just incredible shape.

I worked behind a jackhammer, shoveling shale all summer. I was probably in the best physical condition in my life and my dad said, “Okay, before you get ready to go school, go for two days and all this to try out. I'll let you work on the bases. I'll let you work with –”

[0:04:18.7] KM: Did your dad work at the bases?

[0:04:20.4] GL: No, he is in a Little Rock, but he had men that worked there.

[0:04:22.6] KM: I got you.

[0:04:24.0] GL: There are steamfitters that blown up at local 155 out of Little Rock, because there were popular steamfitters, there were electricians, there were sheet metal workers, all because of the re-modification of the missile silo.

[0:04:36.8] KM: He was a subcontractor, I guess you would say.

[0:04:38.5] GL: Well, no. He's actually just a union man, that had union employees that worked for him. This was right in the middle of the Cold War. We were trying to keep up with Russia, so we were doing this and they would do this. This is Titan II program was all a function of that. Anyway, so I go to come to Jacksonville Air Force Base and go through the checking in and all this on the Friday before I go to work on Monday. I get my identification papers and all that.

I go to work Monday morning and I could say it was an incredible job. You go into what they call the hole down underground, you go in there at 8:00, then they had a deal that come out at 10:15 for a smoke break, then you go back down in the hole and come out at 11:45 for lunch. Then go back in at 1:00, come out at 3:15 for a smoke break and then come out at 4:30 and go home.

[0:05:33.5] KM: Perfect.

[0:05:34.7] GL: It was ideal. Anyway, so I had been working – the missile silo itself was a 180 feet deep. We had been working in the bottom all morning. When we came out for lunch, sit there and had lunch and all this, and then we started back down into the missile base. You know me, I've stilled my personality. Obvious, got to stop chatter. The guys I'm working with, they get on the elevator and they go right to the bottom and start working again. Well I'm sitting there talking with these other guys and I'm around behind the missile itself in the tunnel, there's a escape ladder there. There's only two ways in and out of that tunnel; one was the elevator up and down, the other one was the scape ladder that went up and down.

[0:06:24.6] KM: You're not above ground. You’re just not all the way down.

[0:06:26.9] GL: We’re 80 feet below at that point in time.

[0:06:28.9] KM: Not a 180. Just 80.

[0:06:30.3] GL: No, just 80. Because the missile went all the way, there was eight levels on the silo.

[0:06:34.0] KM: Okay, so you’re halfway down.

[0:06:36.2] GL: I'm sitting there talking and all of a sudden, there's just an incredible flash. The sound similar to what you would run into if you've light a gas stove, that pfff. It was never an explosion. It was a flash fire. The instinct when the fire flashed, the lights went out, the fire flashed, the instinct was to get away from the fire. I got on the escape ladder and started down. I at that point in time and that was probably my first intermission.

[0:07:04.2] KM: You started down, because the fire was above?

[0:07:06.0] GL: The fire was next to me. At first, the inclination was to get away from that. Let’s get away.

[0:07:09.6] KM: That would’ve been easier to go down.

[0:07:10.7] GL: Oh, yeah. Because there's no other place to go. You're in the corner with an escape ladder there, you head go back through the flames.

[0:07:17.9] KM: Oh, I got you.

[0:07:19.0] GL: Go down. I think at that point in time, it's my first realization that, hey, it wasn’t my time, because I mean, totally dark and I'm down the escape ladder all the way to the next level and I’m thank God, he probably said at that point in time, “Hey, we're going to do something different here.” I'm starting back up the scape ladder and these guys are falling all over the top, because everybody's trying to get away from it. I get back up to where we were, lights are still out and I feel my way back around that gun barrel to a cable way, which led to the control center. Of course in that control center, the gauges were going nuts, everything was happening, they knew something was wrong.

They come running down when I collapsed in the cableway, but from smoke inhalation. They got me up, threw me in the decontamination shower, washed me off and they kept – I was too at this point in time and they kept saying, “Hey, you're going to be fine.” I kept saying over and over, “God, don't let me die.” Because I mean, I'm in shock at this point. They put me in an ambulance. That Kerry, that's the longest ride I've ever had because there was so much pain.

I went to Porter Rodgers Hospital in Searcy, because that was the closest one and I got in the emergency room and they hit me with two shots of morphine. At that point in time, the pain was over. There was so much scurrying around in the hospital, because they didn't know what they had coming. You got 55 workers on that silo. They were scurrying around, well nobody else got out.

[0:08:49.5] KM: They thought, “Get ready, everybody’s going to be coming.”

[0:08:51.3] GL: That we’re all coming here, but nobody else got out. What happened was through the investigation process and my dad was on the investigating committee, but through the investigation process, they discovered nobody burned. It was all smoke inhalation. I've talked to – I've made several talks obviously over the last 50 years or whatever since it happened.

The one most comforting thing, I talked to the Platte County Historical Society. What was really interesting, there were a lot of people that are my age that lost their parents, because they

[inaudible 0:09:27.9] from Searcy to Rose, but they lost their dad, or their brother, or whatever. I was everybody telling, “Hey, they never suffered. It was over in just a matter of seconds.”

I would tell you a really story that'll just send chills. My wife and I are getting ready to leave after the talk. A lady came up, a little older than me. Came up and she said, “Thank you for your talk.” She said, “Can I see your hands?” I thought, “Now, where are we going with this?” “Can I see your hands?” She's looking at my hands and she said, “I was the nurse in the emergency room when they brought you in.” She said, “I never thought that you'd use your hands again,” because that's how bad they were burnt. We both hugged each other and I said, “I am so glad you're –” It was –

[0:10:19.8] KM: Your hands look fine.

[0:10:20.6] GL: Yeah, well you know what was really interesting for the long period of time that I'm in the hospital, I never had any more pain. Blisters got up two and three inches tall on my hands and on my face. I once asked what happened to my hair, but I think most of my family is bald anyway. What happened, they flew some medicine in from Lackland Air Force Base. Lackland was a burn center of the country. Because it was an Air Force accident, they flew that in and they kept me sprayed down for the whole period of time I was in the hospital.

Then three days before I left, they came in with some tongs and scraped all those blisters away and there was new skin already forming underneath them. My mother couldn't figure out why I wouldn't have any pain. She bent over to kiss me good night as she was leaving the hospital one night and her whole mouth went up. That's how strong that medication was.

It was quite an ordeal. I went to Washington right after I started school, because the trial was going on. There's 53 people that have lost their lives. Now the big deal is who was to blame? Peter Kiewit was a contractor at that point in time, so you had either the contractor, or the Air Force. Now the decision at the end was pretty muddled, but I was the only one that really was down there. There was a painter that was one of the survivors that got out, but he was in the cableway walking down and he saw the smoke and he turned around. I think he was in the hospital one night just for observation. I was down there.

The attorneys kept warning to me to say, there was somebody welding down there which caused this thing to happen. Well, ain’t nobody welding, because I'm the only guy down and I know what was going on down there. Then what happened too, there was another side of the story. That is every base that was active as far as construction, an Air Force crew of escorts would come out from Jacksonville every morning. If you went into the silo, you had to have an escort with you. The escorts had a sensor detector belts, like a little klaxon, if you will, that if they detected any odor whatsoever, that klaxon would automatically ring the siren and we'd come out of there. We had test drills all the time. Or some fake thing would happen, an odor would happen, we'd come out. Well, there weren't any down there, or they'd still been there.

What they discovered was that the security at the Air Force bases had gotten really lax, because they were in the second year, third year of remodeling all that. All the escorts were playing gin in the quarters on top ground. There never was an official ruling, but the word came down was an Air Force problem, or was it a construction company problem.

[0:13:18.5] KM: You think because they weren't using the sensors that there was an odor link that had been going on for a while.

[0:13:23.9] GL: The investigating committee discovered we were running fuel from the bottom to the top. The investigating committee of which my dad was a member, discovered that the auxiliary power unit that would kick on if there was a problem, a wire shorted out and at the same time, there was a fuel line that ruptured and started spraying on that. When it got hot enough, it's when that blaze occurred. There wasn’t an explosion. If somebody cut into a fuel line, then they would have been burned up. That thing, it would have a lot more impact.

[0:13:56.5] KM: Well, they'd have found a welder wouldn't they? You’d think they'd find a welder if it happened while he was welding, he probably died instantly.

[0:14:04.4] GL: He would’ve had very severe burned and so forth. That just didn't happen.

[0:14:09.9] KM: Did your dad care that you didn't support the Air Force on that?

[0:14:13.9] GL: No. I mean, because actually he was a construction worker, but it really only thing he wasn't, it was really – this is where my family was. This is where my dad was. Obviously, lawsuits were rampant. Now they weren't to the extent that they are today if something like that happens. People lost their provider, they lost their family members. There were lawsuits for everybody that was involved and attorney for my dad's union, so Wayne, because dad was Wayne. He said, “Gary's been through a lot. We probably need some legal action.” My dad was telling, he said, “No.” He said, “I want my expenses paid. I got my boy back. That's all we want.” We never. That one live, my family they wouldn't have ever done anything like that.

[0:15:01.4] KM: I like that.

[0:15:02.3] GL: I had some nightmares after I went to school.

[0:15:04.4] KM: Did you go to school? How long before you went to school?

[0:15:07.2] GL: I went to school. I was in the hospital, I want to say 21 days, 17 days, something like that. I got to start.

[0:15:13.8] KM: The people that dragged you out of the tunnel you said, the cable?

[0:15:19.9] GL: Cableway.

[0:15:21.0] KM: The cableway, how were they not killed?

[0:15:23.6] GL: Well, they were in the control center. The control center was hundreds of feet from where the flash blew and they were separated from that smoke.

[0:15:32.4] KM: They weren’t near that. They just saw you through a window?

[0:15:35.9] GL: No. They were Air Force personnel. When those gauges started really going nuts in the control center, then obviously they came running down. Like everyone say, “I want to go home,” and what had happened.

[0:15:45.6] KM: Oh, I see. They found you and rescued you and dragged you back.

[0:15:48.5] GL: Yeah. I collapsed when I was about halfway down that cable.

[0:15:53.1] KM: This was September the 19th.

[0:15:54.8] GL: August 9th, 1965 at 1:10.

[0:15:57.5] KM: Oh, August 9th. Okay.

[0:15:59.9] GL: Near free of that.

[0:16:02.6] KM: You school started on in September for usual?

[0:16:05.7] GL: Something like that. I can’t remember.

[0:16:07.7] KM: You were in the hospital how long?

[0:16:10.3] GL: I don't really remember. It’s either two or three weeks from that time. I was able to start to school pretty well in time. I went through rush and all ball of wax.

[0:16:21.9] KM: Wow.

[0:16:23.9] GL: That was another funny story, which I'll just get away from that missile, we just – talking about being from a small school, right? Went to Clinton. I was 47 in my graduating class.

[0:16:33.5] KM: That’s where you went to high school? Clinton. Clinton, Arkansas.

[0:16:35.8] GL: Uh-huh. When I started, 47 on my graduate class. When I went through orientation at Fayetteville, the first test I took for an orientation, there was 310 students in it. It’s in the auditorium. I was petrified. I was just, I'd come apart. My mother and dad were up there with me. I had to bring this kid to school. I go outside and my dad's a construction worker. Obviously, he's got his khaki pants on, he's smoking his filter cool and he said, “How was it? How was it?” They’re excited because I'm going to school. I said, “I can't do it. I can't make it. There is no way I could make it.” He threw that cigarette down and he said, “Well, I'll tell you what you do, you get out and get a job and put me through.” I'm like, never forgot that. That was a early lesson learned.

[0:17:24.2] KM: Did you go back in? Did you go back in?

[0:17:26.9] GL: Yeah. I went and graduated with a three something –

[0:17:29.4] KM: You went back in. You turned around and went back in?

[0:17:31.1] GL: I made it.

[0:17:32.6] KM: I guess you had PTSD, don't you think?

[0:17:35.8] GL: I think the perception, when you grow up like that, now this changed with – its changed with all the communication we have now. It's changed with everybody's aware of everything. We were separated. We were shell-shocked. Your perception was if people were from Little Rock, they were just better than you. Didn't matter what they – they were just better. Bigger school on it. Surely if we have time, I'll show you with another day we’re talking about perception. We're playing a school from Little Rock.

[0:18:09.1] KM: When you were in high school.

[0:18:09.9] GL: Yeah, when we traveled, when we traveled we traveled on a yellow school bus, we had a sack lunch, we didn't get to go to the restaurants and eat and all this kind stuff, but we had a really incredible football team one year. What happens in little schools like that, you don't have a – most of the time you don't have a “program,” a football “program,” but you will have kids that will come together one time and just makes you really good, then you get to rebuild again and find it and then come back in. We were playing a school from Little Rock that came up to Clinton.

[0:18:42.2] KM: Because y'all were good.

[0:18:43.5] GL: Yeah, we were good and they were on the schedule. Well, we pulled up in front of the gym, there's two big continental Trailway buses, we walked through the gym because they're getting dressed in the gym. They've all got these blue girdle hit pads, all this stuff on. We were I mean, just nuts and at halftime at 7 to 7. We walk in and my best friend who didn't get to go to school, maybe one of the best athletes I ever had ever was around, just didn't have the grades and didn't have the money. He looked over at me and he said, “Gary, we're a lot better than these guys.”

[0:19:20.6] KM: I love it.

[0:19:21.8] GL: We were just shocked.

[0:19:23.4] KM: Intimidated.

[0:19:24.3] GL: Final score 42-7, us.

[0:19:27.3] KM: Oh, yay.

[0:19:27.8] GL: Yeah. I mean, I mean it was. It’s again, it's like advertising. It's perception and perception works on you. Anyway, that's not what we’re talking about.

[0:19:40.5] KM: That's mental strength overcoming a kid's youthfulness. You can be intimidated as a kid, that's a mental capacity there that you just dug in. I mean, just took one kid to say, “We're better than that.” All of a sudden, you believed it you're ready to go.

[0:19:53.7] GL: Pretty much. Pretty much.

[0:19:54.9] KM: Did you play football at Fayetteville?

[0:19:57.1] GL: No. Again as I told you, I was pretty good –

[0:20:00.6] KM: In Clinton.

[0:20:01.5] GL: Those boys were a lot – I knew a lot of them.

[0:20:04.7] KM: Didn't your skin hurt? Didn't your face hurt? Didn't your hands hurt?

[0:20:07.2] GL: Never had any –

[0:20:07.9] KM: What position did you play?

[0:20:08.7] GL: I played linebacker and I played offensive guard. Honestly, those boys were so much better than me and I think that might have been another dearly God says, “You don't need to go that direction, so I'm going to stop you.” That was 1965. There was a lot of talk, because in 1980 there was another explosion. It had one fatality.

[0:20:32.0] KM: Another Titan II missile.

[0:20:33.1] GL: Yeah. One fatality. That one garnered more attention, because the Searcy one that I was in, although the death toll was 53 people, I mean, 53 people went to work that day, kissed their wives goodbye, hugged their kids, never went home again. The damage and emotional damage there, losing 53 lives, it was the worse Titan II accident in the history of the program.

[0:20:59.5] KM: Yes. We had two or three Titan II in Arkansas at the time.

[0:21:03.1] GL: We had 18. There were 18 silos. Anyway, that one was bad from the loss of life and all that. The one that garnered the most attention was the one at Damascus that only killed one person. That missile had the warhead on it. The one at Searcy didn't. If that warhead had exploded, 80% of the state of Arkansas would have been incapacitated under. That's why that was such a tremendous effect.

[0:21:33.3] KM: When I was reading about you, I kept coming up with the Titan II missile disaster of yours in 1965. Then the Titan II missile disaster 1980, and I couldn't get it straightened out. Turns out that Mondale was in Little Rock, Vice President Mondale was in Little Rock visiting Clinton on September the 18th, 1980 when that warhead caught fire and blew out of the silo and blew a 100 yards into a field, but its safety precautions kept it from –

[0:22:05.0] GL: True.

[0:22:05.6] KM: They kept it away from everybody. Nobody knew.

[0:22:09.5] GL: Like I said, the ramifications of what could have happened.

[0:22:13.5] KM: Vice President Mondale did not even know. They didn't even tell him and he was 50 miles away.

[0:22:18.8] GL: They knew nothing.

[0:22:19.7] KM: I read that online. Of course, you can't believe everything you read online. I thought that was interesting. Back then, the US Air Force when it had to do with missiles, when it had to do in nuclear warfare was not required to tell anybody anything that was going on. The Air Force could keep it all completely under wraps for fear of the Russia finding out something. That happened in 1980, the last near disaster we had in Arkansas with the Titan II missile. In 1981, Ronald Reagan decommissioned all of them and there are none left. Thank goodness.

[0:22:48.6] GL: Yeah. All that money was spent, all the lives lost and various accidents when they revealed them and then they fill them up, built them up, different program, different town.

[0:23:01.0] KM: I'm speaking today with ad man Mr. Gary Lay, Founder of GWL Advertising, See Spot Run Productions and GWL Digital. In 1993, you started GWL advertising after Gary Wayne Lay, very Southern cute name, adorable name. I'm surprised you didn't name it Titan II. That’s what I thought. I thought, “Why isn’t he’s using Titan II anywhere?” It’s a great name. It’s strong. Ever think about that?

[0:23:30.1] GL: No.

[0:23:30.8] KM: Oh, well. Your next business, because you've started three, when you started your fourth business, we can name it GWL Titan II. Anyway, you have 60 clients, 13 states, unlimited experience in purchasing power. Tell us how you ended up in the ad business. What you go to school for?

[0:23:50.7] GL: Well, I majored in marketing and management.

[0:23:53.1] KM: Oh, so you actually were interested in this.

[0:23:54.7] GL: Yeah. Back then, I graduated at ’69, companies were going to colleges. They were interviewing. They needed employees, they needed this. I recently went to work out of school for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, which was a part of the AT&T system. It was so ironic, because I interviewed them for practice. I thought I want to go to work with for an oil company. That's where a lot of my fraternity brothers were going to all that.

[0:24:22.1] KM: It’s where the money is.

[0:24:23.3] GL: Southwestern Bell was such a neat place and they just sold me. I interviewed them and the guy that I interviewed he said, “Hey, we like you. You need to go take this test. If you screw it, don't bother to call me back. If you don't, we want you to come work for us.” So I went and I took this test and first thing you know, I'm working for Southwestern Bell. I was with them, oh let’s see, through the mid to late 70s. That was back when the AT&T was starting to all come together. Southwestern Bell was made up of five states; Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas and they had different companies that were Mountain Bell and all this that worked under the AT&T system. I was a division manager. I’ll toot my own horn a little bit, I was the youngest division manager ever in the AT&T system.

[0:25:23.1] KM: Yeah, you're right out of school.

[0:25:25.4] GL: At that point in time, I'm 24. They wanted a guy that was from Little Rock who had been with them a year longer than me. He was in Wichita, Kansas. They wanted he and I had to go to New York and head up the sales service split, which we put all this AT&T together. When I went to New York and Kerry, I'm very county, right?

[0:25:50.0] KM: You’re from Clinton, Arkansas with 47 people in your graduating class.

[0:25:54.7] GL: I looked at it and I said, “Living in New Jersey two hours each way on the subway, I don’t think so.” There was an opportunity to go to work at KARK channel 4. I went over there as just an account executive, sales person. I got up through the ranks and they were a GNET station at the time. Then GNET sold them to a group of individual businessman, some are well-known in the state. I was with them at that point in time and became vice president of general sales manager.

[0:26:31.7] KM: Well, go Gary.

[0:26:35.1] GL: Back then, we were one of three stations, channel 4, channel 7 and channel 11. I mean, if you tell about it, but a neat place to work, people had to have advertising, they were coming to you. The revenues at that point in time, we've just – you hate to say he's a licensed steel, but it was great. Just growth, growth, growth. Then the group decided they wanted to buy another station and they bought a station in Mississippi. Then we decided they want another station, which was a huge station in Texas. We had a little disagreement about some revenue figures.

[0:27:17.2] KM: What does that mean?

[0:27:18.2] GL: That mean that I was looking for a job that afternoon after we had the meeting that morning.

[0:27:23.6] KM: Oh, what they wanted to pay you?

[0:27:25.0] GL: Well, no. It was what they thought the revenues were doing, what I thought they would do.

[0:27:29.5] KM: When you're in sales.

[0:27:30.8] GL: Yeah. Well, at that point in time, instead of three sections in that revenue figure where it was without getting into a lot of detail, all of a sudden, you had independence, cable.

[0:27:43.3] KM: Oh, the industry was changing.

[0:27:44.6] GL: Kiss and radio had just come in the market. Never taking a lot of money out of the market.

[0:27:47.9] KM: How old are you now?

[0:27:48.8] GL: 71.

[0:27:50.7] KM: How old are you? No, not now. I mean, at that time.

[0:27:53.4] GL: Oh, at that time.

[0:27:54.6] KM: Are you 30 yet? Okay. You're in your 30s. All right.

[0:27:57.6] GL: Then it was a newspaper we're going. I thought I heard your interview with the husband, the newspaper we’re going with the Democrat Gazette. The money was being cobbled up from a – I just didn't think the revenues would do what they've done. We had a little disagreement. Their ball of wax, so I was looking for a job, which best day ever happened to me, because if it hadn't, I’d been working for corporation having a company car, credit card, moving here and moving there, whatever. I got out, but I'll be less than honest, I was terrified. I mean, here I am this age, I didn't have a car, didn't have anything.

[0:28:38.4] KM: Married yet?

[0:28:39.2] GL: Yes.

[0:28:39.8] KM: Children yet?

[0:28:41.3] GL: A little girl.

[0:28:41.9] KM: Your wife let you do that?

[0:28:44.0] GL: Well, yeah. When you think and she could really go back. At the same time, I thought, what am I going to do now? I was going through a divorce.

[0:28:54.3] KM: Oh, Lord.

[0:28:55.1] GL: Well, yeah. We got married when we were kids, 19-years-old.

[0:29:00.2] KM: Well, you are having a life-changing episode.

[0:29:03.7] GL: All of a sudden, yeah, we wouldn't affect anything. We just found out hey, we just want to go different directions. I'll tell you how compatible the divorce was, my wife of 19 years at the time has worked for me for the last 19.

[0:29:21.8] KM: Another guy I love. Sorry honey.

[0:29:23.5] GL: People go into shock when I bring a new employee and I say, “By the way, girl and I were married for 19 years.” Anyway, I looked to what can I do. I thought, maybe I might do some advertising. I mean, I know the electronic market. My wife now said, “Hey, you got to do that. You got to do it.” I didn't really form GWL. I just was feeling it out and doing this and doing that. What's really ironic, Landers was the first client ever had.

[0:29:57.5] KM: Wow. How'd you find Landers Automotive?

[0:30:00.8] GL: Through my wife. She knew the Landers people. They had a little used car operation at Benton, Arkansas selling 75 cars a month.

[0:30:09.8] KM: Steve and his dad.

[0:30:11.4] GL: Steve and his dad and John.

[0:30:12.9] KM: His brother.

[0:30:13.2] GL: John his cousin.

[0:30:14.2] KM: His cousin.

[0:30:15.9] GL: John is what a great man. I mean, what a great man. I went out and I made a pitch to him. I said, “Hey, I can help y'all.” They'd never done any advertising. I didn't have a client. Now you talking about the blind, leading the blind, that was the experience to go through. I knew that hey, if they'll do it my way, you will make a difference, because the market only do – you had all the dealerships and all this, but all they were trying to do was just sell used cars in Benton. What was really interesting, they let me handle their work. I brought in Leslie Basham. Leslie, I mean, television loved her.

[0:30:56.8] KM: She never blinked.

[0:30:58.2] GL: Loved her.

[0:30:59.3] KM: She never blinked.

[0:31:00.2] GL: I said, “Okay, here's what we're going to do and this is where we're going to do it, we're going to tell them what a great place this is to buy a vehicle.” I made sure it was a great place to buy a vehicle. I said, “Now we’re going to kick the tires. We're not going to throw the prices up there.” We're just going to say, “Hey, here's what we want you to do.” Well, the camera loved Leslie. There was two things going; number one, I thought it was pretty good advertising, but they knew how to sell cars. They treated the public right. They did this and did that. Selling 75 cars, or who wanted Landers? Not an agency wanted Landers, so I had them. Well, five years later they're selling 1,200.

[0:31:45.0] KM: Because they’ve gone –

[0:31:47.3] GL: They didn't even have a new car line when I started. Then we picked up Chrysler, we picked up this, picked up that and so forth. It was great. The one thing about it was they were loyal to me. Handling that account when we started, what was really funny, I handle the deal, it's only counting ahead. Now you tell me about trying to make a living, but then Cliff Pat, you remember Cliff Pat Chevrolet, his son had a leadership in Biloxi. He was home for the holidays, he saw the advertising. He calls us, “I want you to come down. I want you to do my stuff.”

[0:32:17.5] KM: That wasn't a conflict, because you're in two different states.

[0:32:19.8] GL: Right. I go down and handled his stuff. Well, then there was a family by the name of Auspice that were from Louisiana, that had to be in Gulfport where Pat was, they were in the automotive business. They saw the stuff, they call and said, “Hey, why don’t you come down here and do that.” Well, I go down there into Louisiana and do that, in Jennings, Louisiana. Well, the next thing you know, there's a car vendor that’s in Jennings, Louisiana

[inaudible 0:32:38.6] sees it, calls and said, “I want you to do this stuff.”

[0:32:42.2] KM: You’re the expert on advertising for car dealerships at that time?

[0:32:47.7] GL: At that point in time, we were having good success, but we had good dealers. We were having good success. It just started. I was a one-man shop. I mean, and you talking about bad. It would take me a full day to write a 30-second spot. I mean, it just was a disaster. I would travel and I would record the stuff, then I get back and I work on it. I did about the media, did the spots.

[0:33:16.6] KM: You knew how to buy the media, because you’d been in media. You were good at that part.

[0:33:19.8] GL: Well, it was almost like, yeah, you knew what to do. You knew the inventory, you knew what they had. It was almost like, hey I ran a TV station. I could be a television sales worst nightmare. I know what they do. The one thing that always happened is that you just work together with the media. They got a job to do and you got a job to do. You formed a partnership. I was always good with them and tried to treat them right and they did the same thing for us. We didn't ask for too much. We just asked for the best thing for our part.

[0:33:49.8] KM: You knew what it should cost.

[0:33:50.7] GL: Yeah. It was a give-and-take and it still is this day and age. It's a give and take.

[0:33:55.8] KM: Yeah. What do you think about media advertising on TV these days?

[0:33:58.8] GL: Well, I think the whole game has changed. Back 15 years ago, 16 years ago, most of your – especially for automotive, it was electronics, whether it be TV or radio, and it was newspaper. Budgets might go 60-40, something like that, television versus print and all that. I mean, if you remember the Democratic Gazette, the automotive section on weekends used to be 18 pages for full-color, all the stuff. It's certainly Ellen, the husband to think that I'm bad-mouthing his biz. I'm not. The public have changed. It's instantaneous now. They want instant gratification.

[0:34:40.2] KM: People buy cars online.

[0:34:42.5] GL: What's happened, I get 60 some clients in 13 states. 10 years ago, every client I had, we did print along with electronic. I don't have one that does print this day and age. Not the first. What's happened is that digital and social media have come in and replaced that segment of the market. Television is still extremely powerful and extremely important, but now everybody wants to get in this other side of things.

[0:35:09.4] KM: Now they're live streaming, so you can skip commercials. What do you think about that?

[0:35:13.7] GL: At the same time, the areas that are still watched very, very loyally are the news areas, things of that nature. It's also because of certain segments that have become real popular. It's caused us to have to work harder with our product. It's caused us to have to be more creative. It's caused us to have to say it better. I've got a wonderful, wonderful group.

[0:35:43.5] KM: How many people?

[0:35:44.6] GL: 33 or 4. It's a different game. For example, compliance. Compliance to make sure that you do it right, that you say the right thing, that you don't say something you're not supposed to say. We have to get approval for everything we do, because of co-op, of reimbursement of funds from manufacturers all that.

[0:36:05.1] KM: Are you still doing a ton of automotive, or you do –

[0:36:09.4] GL: No, we do others.

[0:36:11.8] KM: Middleton Heat & Air.

[0:36:12.7] GL: I still do Middleton. I don’t do the heart hospital anymore. We got them on track and they went a different direction and they should have, because they needed more than attention than what we could give them with the way we were doing it.

[0:36:25.5] KM: How do you pick a good client? How do you know if this client is a good client?

[0:36:28.4] GL: Well, number one, a lot of it will seek you out. Then what I do and this is if about any of my people are listening, they've heard me say this, but all these years, I've been in this business and I've had some huge clients. We had the Honda Group in Houston Texas, which was the number one local advertising group in America. Incredible results, really and had the Honda Group in New Orleans. We've had big groups. I've never signed a contract.

[0:36:58.0] KM: That's the only way I like to do business.

[0:37:00.0] GL: Not going to do it. The reason I'm not – I’m not going to have a bad client, whether it be automotive or whatever. If they want to do something that's unethical, whatever, then they can go a different direction. At the same time, they don't need a bad agency. If I tell them we can do something, all of a sudden, they get in there and said, “Gary Wayne, this is not working really like we thought it should.” They need to be able to go on.

If you're doing a good job and you're doing it right and you're doing it together, then you don't need to contract. The only thing you need is a scope of work that says, this is what we're going to do for you and this is what's going to cost you.

[0:37:35.6] KM: I want to tell everybody, you're listening to Up In your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with the ad man, Mr. Gary Lay, Founder of GWL Advertising, See Spot Run Productions and GWL Digital. You started See Spot Run Productions, because you wanted to be in control of the videos you made.

[0:37:52.2] GL: Yeah, the –

[0:37:53.4] KM: You did that in 2005, I think.

[0:37:56.5] GL: There's some great production houses here. Most of my friends of mine and their peers were. The thing about it was, and we used two or three, but the flexibility one there.

[0:38:08.4] KM: Because the studio was being used, or the cameraman was on vacation.

[0:38:11.6] GL: If we client that says, “Hey, I want to be on the air tomorrow with something different.” We didn't have that flexibility. Plus the fact that obviously, they’re making a living, so their charges were pretty well fixed and our ability to negotiate was somewhat skewed. My creative director who's been with me now for 18, 19 years said, “Hey, let's do our own thing.” We did. We applied the same effort and the same knowledge to the production side as we did from our regular traditional advertising side. That is we did good stuff.

We would brainstorm what campaigns do we want to run, where do we want to go here? One of the biggest mistakes people make in advertising is they're not consistent. They'll knee-jerk. They go here and if something doesn't really happen, they'll go here and then they will go here, then they think, “I'm spending too much. I'm not spending enough.” Total confusion.

[0:39:07.6] KM: I totally do that.

[0:39:09.7] GL: Well, we do. What you need to do is that you – it's like building a house. You get your foundation. You get something solid. You determine with the client not only where you want to be next month, where do you want to be in three or four years. You build that thing and you stay consistent with it. When the public sees or hears, they know it's you. Again, it's back to what we said, perception. What are the perception of a good deal is better than the deal itself. What we do is that we build on that and we stay consistent.

[0:39:43.9] KM: Steve Landers said he never gives a price on a commercial.

[0:39:47.0] GL: We went 17 years before we ever put a price on the screen. The thing about it is you were talking, Kerry you were talking about different dealers in the same market and all that, an agency can handle separate dealerships if they have separate buying groups. In other words, if I got a separate buying group here and then one here, one handles this one, one handles this one. If you've got the same one handling, that gets a little tricky.

[0:40:14.6] KM: Everybody buys a car.

[0:40:16.4] GL: Yeah. What happens is this, if you're handling multiple dealerships with one group, one buying group, let's say for example, we talked about the media; channel 4, 7, 11, whoever it might be.

[0:40:27.6] KM: That’s what you mean by the buying group.

[0:40:29.4] GL: They say that they bring you something that's special.

[0:40:32.9] KM: Yeah, which client are you going to give it to?

[0:40:34.5] GL: Which one are you going to give it to? Shouldn’t ever have to make that decision. You have separate buying groups that work for you.

[0:40:40.3] KM: Don't all dealers want to speak to the same group? I mean, you’re all selling cars, don't they speak to the same people?

[0:40:48.4] GL: Well, what I mean by buying groups, you have separate people that work for me that handle, get down in different groups.

[0:40:56.0] KM: Oh, buying groups within your –

[0:40:57.1] GL: Yeah, I've got an account manager that has a team, another account manager who has a team, another account manager who has a team.

[0:41:02.9] KM: They don't necessarily know what the other one is doing?

[0:41:04.2] GL: Don't have a clue and they shouldn't. Then so if somebody brings you something special, everybody's got it and then you’ve offer whatever you want to do. The thing you got to do I think in advertising is that you got to be consistent. What's happened, what's happened in the past years, we've gotten so clever with ability to do things for example on television, to be really creative, to do things that are just so out there.

What we do and again, people have heard me say this over and over, but it's true. On Monday after Super Bowl Sunday, we will have a luncheon for our task, for our force, we would go over the commercials in the Super Bowl. Now here's what's happened, it happens every year. What happens is it you get up there and build it and somebody says, “God, I love that commercial.” Somebody say, “Yeah, wasn’t it great? Blah, blah, blah.” You turn around and you look at him and say, “Who's it for?” That blank stare comes out.

Yeah, these people have paid 2.7 million dollars for a 30-second spot and you can't even tell who it is? Waste of money. That's what's happened with a lot of our advertising. They've got to tell the consumer what they wanted to do. Let's take automotive for example, you take a 30-minute newscast, got four two-minute breaks at 16, 30-second spots, nine of them are cars. You better be saying something that the public remembers.

The thing that we've tried to do is that we've tried to tell the public, “Hey, this is the best place for you to come and the best place to buy a car.” We try to do that every time we hit the air, whether it be TV, whether it be digital, whatever, we're saying the same thing over and over again. The whole point is this, I'm going to believe it and they're going to do that, or I'm not going to work with it. In other words, I'm not going to be, if critical just for the money and said, “Well, how’d you need to go here.” I'm going to believe that that's place you need to go. That way, you can put your whole effort into it. You can't be balling what you're doing.

There's a couple of different markets where we have three or four dealers, different buying groups and we feel good about everything we're doing. The thing about it is all them are successful, and that's the neat thing. I'll tell you –

[0:43:20.1] KM: Do you have anybody that's too small?

[0:43:22.0] GL: No. It's not the money. I want them to be aggressive. I want them to be consistent. It’s like, Martin Milton. I'm sure, if he’s listed, he'll laugh at this story, but it's true. I'm going to tell my client, but Martin walked in several years ago. He said, “I've got the best heating and air conditioning company in America and nobody knows about it.” We fixed that. We came out with a campaign and you remember that campaign, “I'll take care of that”?

[0:43:52.9] KM: I do.

[0:43:54.3] GL: Well, you'll always remember because it was neat.

[0:43:56.0] KM: It was.

[0:43:57.2] GL: Now, I believe Martin Milton is the best heat and air-conditioning company in America, but everybody knows about. It's a different story. We did the same thing in heart hospital and I hate to lose them, but it was better for them to go on. We gave them an identity. They started the deal, “Hey, this is where you need to go.”

[0:44:12.5] KM: You do. You tell stories for them.

[0:44:14.5] GL: Yeah. It's –

[0:44:15.7] KM: It's a tough business. Your name is on everything. What's your legacy? GWL is on everything.

[0:44:25.9] GL: Well, GWL, Gary Wayne Lay, being from Clinton, everybody had two names.

[0:44:30.9] KM: I know. Gary Wayne. I love it.

[0:44:32.3] GL: Jim, being Gary Wayne, whatever. The thing I wanted is and this is what I've been tried to instil with our people, there's two things I believe in, I believe in loyalty and I believe in ethics.

[0:44:46.4] KM: Yes.

[0:44:46.9] GL: If you can't look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I'm doing it right,” then you're in the wrong business. I want to leave with people that will always look at our company, or whatever they thought and said, “Hey, they did it the right way.” I think that's extreme important.

[0:45:03.2] KM: Are they going to?

[0:45:04.3] GL: I think so.

[0:45:05.3] KM: You feel good about it?

[0:45:06.0] GL: Yeah. I mean, the thing, we’ve got a great staff, great people that care.

[0:45:12.4] KM: Diverse staff.

[0:45:13.7] GL: Yeah.

[0:45:14.1] KM: You got a nice diverse stuff. If you want to go look at Gary's website, you can go on his website and see his whole staff. They're all on there. Gary's funny. You can read all these funny things he says, he says about himself. You wrote about yourself. I'm not gray, I'm just black or white. I wanted to add in, bald.

[0:45:31.8] GL: You can. A guy told me one time, he said, “Gary, people will never say Gary Lay is okay. People will either really like you, or they don't like you.”

[0:45:42.0] KM: Nobody cannot like you, Gary.

[0:45:43.4] GL: Because it’s all black and white to me. It's like I told you earlier, if you have to justify something and wiggle around and do this and do that, you have to justify just or it's wrong.

[0:45:54.6] KM: That's a good barometer.

[0:45:56.0] GL: I mean, it's just apparent to me. When you see something that's either this way, or this way and that's the way we try to operate our business.

[0:46:02.1] KM: Gary, thank you for coming on.

[0:46:03.3] GL: It's been great. Thank you.

[0:46:04.5] KM: You are so interesting. Gray, who is our guest next week, do you remember?

[0:46:08.6] G: We are doing a rerun of Josh –

[0:46:10.9] KM: Josh Hill.

[0:46:11.7] G: Of Jeopardy Fame.

[0:46:13.2] KM: He is of Jeopardy Fame. He's a seven-time winner. He's from North Little Rock, Arkansas. Because everyone was watching the recent 2 million dollar winner James – I'm saying his name, right? James Holzhauer, he was a –

[0:46:25.8] G: Something like that.

[0:46:26.7] KM: He was a gambler, he's a professional gambler in Las Vegas. He won over 2 million dollars on Jeopardy. The world is fixated on it. At least I was, so I thought it'd be fun to run Josh, because he talks about all the happenings behind the scenes. Then after that, we have Mr. Charles Morgan, Founder of Acxiom. Gary, I want to thank you again. Here's your gift.

[0:46:44.8] GL: Thank you so much.

[0:46:45.8] KM: Here’s your gift.

[0:46:46.7] GL: Oh, thank you so much.

[0:46:47.1] KM: It’s a US and Arkansas desk set for your desk.

[0:46:49.8] GL: Very good. Thank you. I will put it up there in the morning.

[0:46:52.8] KM: Good. Thank you. For our listeners who might have a great entrepreneurial story that they'd like to share, send a brief bio and your contact info to me at kerry@flagandbanner.com. That's Kerry, K-E-R-R-Y@flagandbanner.com.

To all, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening, and I know you did today. Whatever we said today, I hope it helps you up your business, your independence, or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy and I'll see you next time on Up In your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.


[0:47:31.5] G: You've been listening to Up In your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today's guest. Subscribe to podcasts wherever you like to listen.

Kerry's goal, to help you live the American dream.


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