Tire ads long have been a staple on television, and these days are no different.
But that's not to say nothing's changed-far from it, in fact.
For example, Michelin North America Inc. has abandoned the babies in favor of Bibendum, also known as the ``Michelin Man.'' Goodyear's longtime ``Serious Freedom'' campaign is gone in favor of the more serious ``On the Wings of Goodyear'' slogan. Even Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has more of a TV presence today.
For its part, Bridgestone/Firestone's main change has been retro, as in bringing back the ``Where the Rubber Meets the Road'' Firestone-brand campaign with a more up-to-date tempo.
While television remains a mainstay for most of the main players, other variables have to be taken into account. Those factors include where to place the ads, with cable television and satellite systems continuing to take a greater share of the viewing audience.
Tire makers also must consider the growing number of females making tire-buying decisions, which can affect not only where to air commercials but also what the message should be.
Following is a summary of some of the major tire makers' TV campaigns and advertising philosophies.
While the babies are gone, Michelin still wants to get across the point that its tires are ``best in class'' for all vehicle types, be they passenger cars, trucks, sport-utility vehicles or ultra-high-performance sports cars, according to Martha Burwell, senior marketing manager for Michelin Americas Small Tires.
``Our core audience is adults who believe tires are important and understand that tires can improve the performance of their vehicles,'' Ms. Burwell said.
Having Bibendum as the focus of current ads ``instantly communicates Michelin and this increases our branding scores,'' she said.
For example, one recent commercial, in which the Michelin Man was searching for his lost dog, ranked among the most popular ads ever tested by Millward Brown, the copy testing firm used by Michelin. ``The Michelin Man is always the hero of the ads and generally brings a strong product message along with some humor to the spots,'' Ms. Burwell said.
Michelin focuses its ad dollars on network and cable TV, but also runs print and online advertising. ``Cable allows us to zero in on (our target audience) effectively,'' she said. ``At the same time, we also need the reach of the major networks since Michelin is a large national brand.''
Michelin dealers also run a lot of radio and newspaper ads, which are more affordable and can deliver a localized message.
Goodyear has boosted its ad spending significantly the past two years because of the introduction of its Assurance line of tires, said Jeanne Sherman, director of new products.
Goodyear plays to a broad market and has a separate plan for each brand. For example, the message for the Assurance line offers peace of mind, while ads for Wrangler truck tires boast that the driver can go anywhere, anytime.
``The bottom line is, `You can trust Goodyear to ensure you'll enjoy your journey,''' Ms. Sherman said.
Goodyear uses nearly all channels of advertising except outdoor ads. The tire maker places spots on news, sports, prime time shows, cable, radio and even does some cinema advertising.
``With the growth of cable, there are fewer people watching prime time and that's changed how everyone advertises,'' she said. ``Media consumption is fragmented. We rely on our ad agencies on how to slice and dice the market.''
The tire maker also aims about 40 to 50 percent of its advertising at women, with programs selected that appeal to both genders. In addition, it spends heavily on retail advertising to help build customers for local dealers.
Goodyear tracks the success of its ads with studies that measure as many as 50 aspects related to the brand. It uses both aided and unaided surveys to determine loyalty numbers.
Goodyear spent $331.3 million in 2003 on advertising-including costs for cooperative advertising programs with dealers and franchisees, according to the firm's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Bridgestone/Firestone looks to get across different messages for its two main brands.
For Bridgestone tires, the key message is that ``technology is important in your daily life,'' said Phil Pacsi, executive director for the firm's North American consumer tire brand marketing.
And for the Firestone brand, it's the return of the ``Where the Rubber Meets the Road'' campaign, which the firm said was brought back by popular demand.
``We have always gotten comments from our employees and dealers about that spot, so we decided to remake the old classic in 2004,'' Mr. Pacsi said. ``The spots have been very well received by employees and dealers, as well as consumers.''
The tire maker focuses its advertising to reach consumers age 18-54, using a variety of buys on network, cable and selected local markets.
``The expansion of cable and satellite TV has opened many new opportunities to viewers as well as advertisers,'' he said. ``Surprisingly, some popular cable channels are rapidly reaching network pricing levels.''
Bridgestone/Firestone also is working to position its products and services to the female audience as the percentage of women purchasing tires continues to grow.
``We do many types of targeting programs aimed at winning the female customer over to our brands,'' Mr. Pacsi said. ``We advertise on specific TV channels, publications and Internet sites, as well as targeted events.''
Cooper has ventured more into television advertising recently than has been the case traditionally as the firm broadens its product range and reach.
Its current campaign features three rather modest 30-second offerings built on the tagline, ``Don't Give Up a Thing.'' The vignettes-featuring friends or family discussing an unnamed bad decision one of them made-are meant to be humorous and go against the grain of ads that talk about design and engineering.
Tom Dattilo, chairman, president and CEO of Cooper, said the tagline, which debuted in 2002, forsakes elaborate advertising talk yet can appeal to a number of consumers.
``It really resonates,'' he said last year. ``You don't have to define, `Don't give up a thing,' which is the beauty of it. It can be whatever any individual exactly wants it to be.''
The tire maker is employing a ``fewer, bigger, better'' philosophy in choosing its venues, opting for big name cable channels for the TV ads.
To target broadline customers, Cooper will use Lifetime, USA Network, Fox News, Arts & Entertainment and The Learning Channel. For SUV drivers, the company will use the History Channel, ESPN and Weather Channel, while tuner ads will be found on FX, ESPN and Discovery Channel.
Through the first six months of 2004, Cooper increased its spending on advertising by $12 million over the same period in 2003, according to the firm's second-quarter 10Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
This report was compiled by Brad Dawson, Mike McNulty, Bruce Meyer and Bruce Davis of Crain News Service.