April 22, 2004
Adel-- Many of America's small towns have an identity problem, all but forgotten with Interstates and by-passes that move traffic quickly, easily and safely.
Small towns like Adel, with seven traffic lights and 13,000 people living in the area, could have had an identity crisis with little or no money to promote itself.
Many people know Adel mostly as an exit on one of the country's busiest highways, Interstate 75, Exit 39, were 35,129 cars pass it each day, according to Georgia Department of Transportation traffic estimates. Behind the billboards that line the Interstate is a town that has bragging rights few people will ever hear.
A local company makes more plastic pipe, called PVC, than anywhere in the world. They have a steel construction business, second only to those in Houston, Texas. Plus, they have a man who makes a living with something he doesn't like.
"I don't really like my voice," admits Ralph Deen, a former Adel radio station owner, who heads his own advertising company now, Deen Advertising. "I've always thought that I sounded so goofy," says Ralph sitting in his home recording studio near Adel.
Many people would disagree with the characterization of his voice, finding it refreshing and humorous. People within a hundred miles in each direction of Adel hear it, or one of his voices, frequently. "I'd rather be Junior," laughs Ralph, referring to one of his character voices.
Ralph writes the commercials, frequently voices them or hires announcers in other cities such as Memphis, Tennessee and Lafayette, Indiana to do it. He has clients in Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Colorado. Adel wasn't left out, getting a promotional windfall from Ralph's creativity. "It's something you can't pay for," says Adel Mayor Richard Barr.
The small town got its special identity when Ralph Deen tried something different-- all for a TV spot for a local car dealer. "We had about 15 customers standing around, and I asked one to say Adel, Georgia. Then, to say Adel, baby," remembers Ralph.
He asked the others, too. Each time, he noticed, they smiled when they said, what would become, two magical words, Adel baby.
Why baby? "Baby is a word that I have always loved," remembers Ralph.
"Daddy called mama that. Mamma called me that. I call my wife that. I call my children that. Guys say it to each other playing baseball or football or in sports. It's a non-sexual term of endearment, and I love baby. It's a good, positive, optimistic four-letter word."
A four-letter word that helps sell hundreds of cars and trucks and gives a small town a special identity all its own. Ralph Deen created the saying eight years ago, and it still retains its freshness as if he created it yesterday.
"I travel all over, and when people asked me where I'm from, I say Adel, and they say Adel, baby," says Mayor Barr. The four-letter word gives Adel its special identify, an identity many other towns would like to have. "It has put us on the map," says Mayor Barr.
A mental map that separates his town from many others-- because Ralph Deen always liked one four-letter word in particular.