“How do I get a driver’s license in California?” “What do I do if my car fails a smog test?”

These questions and more will be answered by “Answer Man” – the California Department of Motor Vehicle’s new driver information guru. On Nov. 13, the DMV launched the first video in a series of nine on YouTube so Answer Man can respond to questions about general driver information from California residents.

Because the DMV can be a little dry, the subject matter can be a little dry, said DMV spokeswoman Jan Mendoza. "But the new age of social media and Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and all these things we’re now involved in, we thought it would be really cool to have somebody that could give lessons about DMV business that people can relate to,” she said. “And not just a stiff bureaucrat, but kind of a character that they can grow to love and actually find a little humorous and related to, so we came up with the idea of the DMV answer man.”

In his first video, the DMV Answer Man answers a Sacramento resident's question: “How do I get a California driver’s license?”

During the two-minute video, Answer Man explains how new California residents can obtain their new state driver’s license, what documents to bring to the DMV and where to look on the DMV’s website for the information.

Mendoza said DMV staff asked individuals living in Sacramento, California’s capital city, to ask their DMV questions on camera, and from there, the questions that were asked most frequently were turned into an Answer Man video. She said so far, all nine videos in the series are in development, and one will be released every few weeks.

Other questions Answer Man will tackle in the video series include: “What do I do if my car fails the smog test?” “What kind of insurance does my car need?” and “How do I sell or transfer a car in California?”

Mendoza said the Answer Man is a paid actor, but costs to develop the entire series only amounted to $850. All production involved with the video series was done in-house at the California DMV, and Mendoza recorded herself singing the opening jingle in the video.

Earlier this year, Colorado’s Division of Motor Vehicles took a similar approach when encouraging its residents to renew their licenses online. Through one of its more recent ad campaigns, the state featured a man in a cut-off flannel shirt similar to the one worn by comedian Larry the Cable Guy. The mustache and mullet-wearing character by the name “Guy Vroom” character appeared in public service announcements to advise residents about avoiding the DMV by renewing their license online instead.

But in California, what’s next for the Answer Man is to wait and see how the videos fare with citizens, Mendoza said. If they do well, the DMV will move forward with more Answer Man Web video installments.

“We might hire a DMV Answer Lady,” she said.  “We might switch it up a little bit, and we might have them interact with each other.”

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.