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Published on January 30, 2006

Titan ad campaign pushes envelope

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Opinion

AKRON (Jan. 30,2006) — Without a doubt, Maurice “Morry” Taylor Jr. has orchestrated a miraculous turnaround at Titan International Inc., the Quincy, Ill.-based tire and wheel maker he heads as chairman and CEO.


From a low point in early 2003 when the company was losing money and facing the possibility of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange because its share price had fallen below $1, Titan has rebounded remarkably.


Today, the firm is solidly in the black, has just completed the purchase of Goodyear's North American farm tire business and is in negotiations with an equity firm to take Titan private at a purchase price of $18 a share.


Titan is on a roll.


But Mr. Taylor, who is known for his aggressive style and frank talk, risks tainting the goodwill and momentum he has generated at Titan with its newest advertising campaign.


In a televised ad that kicks off this week on cable's The Weather Channel, Mr. Taylor talks about the acquisition of the Goodyear farm tire business and touts the Titan and Goodyear products as American-made.


In a humorous spot, Mr. Taylor pokes fun at his two biggest rivals stating that using tires made by Japanese-owned Bridgestone/Firestone and French-owned Michelin on American farms is like putting a kimono on a farmer or a beret on a cowboy. This despite the fact that nearly all Firestone farm tires are made in Iowa.


It's in the second and third TV spots where Titan risks crossing the line of good taste. In these, which Titan shared with Tire Business, Mr. Taylor talks about getting “shafted” by “cheap” Chinese-made tires. In one ad, he mimics a Chinese accent, declaring, “You buy a Chineeese tire, you get a rippeeed off.”


Titan said it's “not sure” if it will run this ad on cable. We urge Titan not to air it.


If Titan wants to promote its products as American-made, by all means it should do so, but not by putting others down for how they speak or where a product originates.


It's possible some tire dealers and end-use customers will buy into Mr. Taylor's exhortations and take on the company's products simply because they are made in America. But there's not likely to be many.


Nearly every tire dealer and end-user today buys tires from factories around the globe and companies with headquarters overseas. What dealers want from their suppliers are quality products delivered on time and at a fair price.


Mr. Taylor has never been one to pull punches. It's a quality we admire. But there's a fine line between being genuinely outspoken and being brash and insulting.


At Goodyear, the corporate philosophy is, “Protect Our Good Name.” Mr. Taylor might want to adopt the same at Titan.

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