Rocky's Autos shags an endorsement

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Basic-cable fiends are familiar with the formula for Rocky's Autos commercials: quasi-humorous skits featuring the Shagman and his sidekicks. But as viewers have seen in recent days, change is afoot at Rocky's -- among them, replacing the laughs with testimonials by self-proclaimed Troubleshooter Tom Martino.

Martino's been a busy boy lately, promoting and then launching his new Martino TV program, which asks businesses to pay to receive the endorsement of the longtime consumer advocate. At least executives at channels 2 and 31 have said he can no longer pose as a journalist in newscasts, finally taking a long-running ethical conflict off the table.

The Martino spots are the first new Rocky's commercials after an unusual dry spell. For more than a month, Shagman and friends infiltrated living rooms only via reruns. Add to that the fact that Rocky's lot at 6350 Federal Boulevard was cleared of cars for a couple days in May -- and speculation ensued.

Could another dealership have succumbed to the shitstorm economy? Would the state of Colorado no longer be subjected to/graced by the cheaply produced commercials? And, more important, what would become of the Shagman, our friend of fifteen years?

Fortunately for Shagman fans, the dealership isn't going anywhere. According to Rocky's Autos president David Rothrock, the cars temporarily vanished because new asphalt was applied to the lot. And the break in commercial production at Rocky's, which was recently honored by Wells Fargo bank as a top-25 auto dealer, was dictated by a website revamp and the Martino "endorsement" -- the first he's bestowed on a used-car dealer. The two newly released Rocky's commercials are definitely heavy on Martino, identified by his KHOW radio show, who has purchased a car there himself, according to one.

"A lot of good things have been happening," says Rothrock, who believes the 27-year-old Westminster-based dealership is holding up well by staying abreast of what people can afford. As he puts it, "The public has changed due to the financial system. So we're not going to carry as many high-dollar units as we have before. We have to adapt to the changed times and cater to our customers, because they're the reason why we're still here, and why we'll continue to be here."

That's good news for Shagman fans -- and Tom Martino's wallet.

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