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BMW Commercial Wins Praise For Using Sign Language

Moss Media Labs

Sign language is rarely seen on television, but a new commercial for BMW of Chattanooga features it.  Scott Carpenter, the dealership employee who signs, says he's an "introvert," but he stepped into the limelight.


Television commercials created for BMW of Chattanooga feature real, local dealership employees.  For example, this guy…


That’s Heath Higdon.

HIGDON: They were here filming for three days on that one commercial, I believe.

The employees all talk about BMW and its pledge to serve customers.  One employee communicates in a way seldom seen on TV.  Scott Carpenter uses sign language.

BACKGROUND NOISE: Employees working in detail dept

Carpenter oversees the detail department at BMW Of Chattanooga, where he and his co-workers buff and clean cars.  When a film crew came, Carpenter needed a little convincing, to step in front of the camera.  Carpenter is deaf, and he says he can be shy.

CARPENTER: I'm more of an introvert.  That's partially because of my handicap.

Daniel Bellemare, BMW of Chattanooga’s General Manager, asked Carpenter to be in the commercial.  Carpenter looked for an excuse, a way out, at first.

CARPENTER: My voice, people may not understand it.  And then he looked me straight in the eye and said, "Use sign language."

So that's what Carpenter did.  In the commercial, he uses sign language, to explain how BMW of Chattanooga technicians will give cars the love they deserve.

CARPENTER:  I had to practice those words.  I had to look in the mirror, to see if I was doing them right.

In fact, this is the first time he's ever seen himself using sign language on film.

CARPENTER:  Yeah, it was surreal.  And I thought, that wasn't that bad.

Sign language isn't Carpenter's first language.  Carpenter grew up hearing, and became deaf when he was nine.  Because of that, he says he thinks like a hearing person.

CARPENTER: I was raised as a hearing person.  I've never been to deaf schools or anything.

He's good at reading lips.  He speaks clearly, although there are challenges.  He says pronunciations have become harder as he's gotten older.  He has trouble pronouncing words he's never heard before.  So his wife helps him.

CARPENTER: My wife is very good at correcting my speech.

Carpenter has worked at the dealership for 20 years.  It's obvious that he loves his job, although he never planned to make a career at BMW.  He studied business administration at Tennessee Temple, graduated, and then came to BMW.

CARPENTER: I believe, 1992. (MIKE: Why?) Well, I was in between jobs, I had a newborn boy, and I needed something to fill in the blanks before I found a job I wanted to do.  I've never left.  (MIKE: Why are you staying here?)  Why do I stay here?  The people.  I like working here.

Monica Parker, BMW of Chattanooga's E-commerce manager, says Carpenter is one of the best car detailers in town.

PARKER: Scott's very well known as a detailer across the city, so most of the people in the region, in the automotive industry, they're very familiar with Scott.

I was curious… if Carpenter is a detailing expert… how often does he do his own car? He surprised me with his answer.

CARPENTER: Do I do my car?  Almost never, ha ha!

The commercial is part of a series of four, created by Moss Media labs, a creative agency in Chattanooga.  All of their new BMW of Chattanooga commercials feature REAL employees.

PARKER: From my opinion, I see a lot of the dealership commercials and frankly they're a little cheesy.  And so I wanted us to stand out.

The CEO of the National Association of the Deaf praised the commercial featuring Scott Carpenter.  In a media release, Howard A. Rosenblum was quoted as saying he applauds BMW of Chattanooga for employing deaf and hard of hearing employees, and recognizing the value of such employees by including them in a TV commercial.  And Carpenter says, now that he's done one, he'd like to do another.

CARPENTER: That gave me the confidence.  I would do it again.

You can see the commercial online at Vimeo.com.  Just search Vimeo for BMW of Chattanooga.  For WUTC's Around and About, I'm Michael Edward Miller.