After a widespread agency rotation, leading tire marketers are pumping up ad efforts, including major multiple-brand pushes from two of the top three U.S. players.
U.S. segment leader Goodyear, based in Akron, is aiming to leverage more ad support behind its performance Dunlop brand, which until a few months ago received virtually no U.S. advertising (see accompanying chart).
The tire maker announced March 26 that it had chosen Arnold Worldwide Partners (Boston) and 180 Communications (Amsterdam, Netherlands) to represent Dunlop brand tires in advertising strategy and direction for the respective North American and European markets.
``We have dramatically different needs for those two regions that are right now best addressed by these decisions,'' said Cathy Fischer, chief marketing officer for Goodyear.
Arnold Worldwide, she said, has ``great experience from their Volkswagen business with the target audience that we're trying to reach: the young, up-and-coming higher-income men and women.'' She called Arnold one of the top creative agencies in the country with a proven track record for growing a ``challenger'' brand.
Meanwhile, Ms. Fischer added, 180 Communications has ``an excellent feel for the European market'' and has demonstrated that with past work it has done with the Dunlop brand as well as with European footwear giant Adidas.
Michael Kitz, Goodyear's vice president of marketing for North American Tire, said he expects new creative material to be available within the next few months.
Michelin North America Inc.-which edged out Bridgestone/Firestone as the No. 2 U.S. player in 2000-is expected to increase spending behind a new ad approach the Greenville, S.C.-based company broke several weeks ago featuring its Michelin man mascot ``Bibendum'' in TV ads depicting him as a space shuttle astronaut. It is the first work from new shop Interpublic Group of Cos. Campbell-Ewald, in Warren, Mich.
Bridgestone/Firestone is increasing support for its premier Bridgestone brand-until last year primarily targeted to driving enthusiasts via limited motorsports advertising.
And Continental Tire North America Inc. is developing new national magazine ads for May from independent Boone/Oakley in Charlotte, N.C., where Conti is based. That ad campaign continues the tag line adopted by Conti last fall: ``They're not just tires, they're Continental Tires.''
The ad/marketing pushes come as the tire business has been losing air. Coming on the heels of a massive tire recall, Bridgestone/Firestone's North American tire business fell to $4.9 billion in 2001 vs. $5.1 billion in 1999.
Goodyear, on Feb. 8, announced a 2001 global net loss of $203 million. Anand Mehta, industry analyst at Cleveland-based Freedonia Group, projected that the three leading tire makers will continue to be hurt by the economic slump.
At the start of the recently concluded Winter Olympics, Bridgestone/Firestone broke two new TV spots-for the Bridgestone brand-from Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York. The company first decided in 1999 to increase Bridgestone's awareness, but ``with the first (Firestone) recall (in August 2000), we stepped up some of those efforts to further promote the Bridgestone brand,'' said Phil Pacsi, BFS executive director for North American consumer tires brand marketing.
At the same time, the Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker is still hoping to rebuild the Firestone brand, which was severely hurt in sales and image by recalls closely tied to accidents and fatalities in Ford Motor Co.'s Explorer sport-utility vehicle.
``We are not going to abandon a more than 100-year-old brand,'' Mr. Pacsi said. ``Firestone has a rich heritage and it's the tire you can rely on.''
Grey Worldwide is working on two new Firestone TV spots, which will break in the coming weeks. One is a brand spot; the other will introduce a new tire.
Dunlop's ad budget won't come out of Goodyear's hide-the spending will be incremental, according to Mike Kitz, vice president-marketing and brand management for all the marketer's tire brands in North America. Dunlop's U.S. brand awareness ``is fairly low,'' he said. But people who get the tires as original equipment on their new BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or Audi vehicles appreciate their performance, he said, noting the new agency will help clarify the performance-for-passionate drivers positioning.
The Goodyear brand, meanwhile, will be supported with new ``On the wings of Goodyear'' ads from Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which won Goodyear's account last year. The new spots are due in early summer.
The slew of agency reviews in the past 12 months in the tire business isn't driven by a single event, said Chuck Sinclair, public relations director at Goodyear. ``I think they were driven by a lot of clutter in tire advertising and recognizing a need to break through.''
He said Goodyear ``wanted to go in a dramatic new creative direction,'' which it was not getting from WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, Detroit.