MAJOR TIRE MAKERS LAUNCH AD BLITZ

Effort Follows Wave of Agency Changes

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- 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 Tire & Rubber Co. is looking for an agency as it aims to leverage more ad support behind its performance Dunlop brand, which until a few months ago received virtually no U.S. advertising. Michelin North America, which edged out Bridgestone/Firestone as the No. 2 U.S. player in 2000, is expected to increase spending behind a new ad approach breaking this week, the first work from new shop Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich.

Bridgestone/Firestone, meanwhile, is upping support for its premier Bridgestone brand, until last year primarily targeted to driving enthusiasts via limited motorsports advertising. And Continental Tire North America is developing new national magazine executions for May from independent Boone/Oakley, Charlotte, N.C., that continue its tag adopted last fall: "They're not just tires, they're Continental Tires."

Punctured business
The pushes come

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as the tire business loses air. Firestone and Bridgestone's North American replacement tire business fell to $4.9 billion in 2001 vs. $5.1 billion in 1999, while Goodyear announced a 2001 global net loss Feb. 8 of $203 million. Anand Mehta, industry analyst at consultancy Freedonia Group, projected the three leading tiremakers will continue to be hurt by the economic slump.

Privately-held Bridgestone/Firestone broke two new TV spots at the start of the Olympics from Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, for the Bridgestone brand. 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, executive director-tire brand marketing for Bridgestone and Firestone in North America.

Won't abandon brand
At the same time, the marketer is still hoping to rebuild Firestone, severely hurt in sales and image by recalls closely tied to accidents and fatalities in Ford Motor Co.'s Explorer sport utility. "We are not going to abandon a more than 100-year-old brand," said Mr. Pacsi. "Firestone has a rich heritage and it's the tire you can rely on."

Grey 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 of 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.

Dunlop's review will result in one shop for the U.S. and pan-European market. Mr. Kitz declined to identify participants, but said European incumbent 180, Amsterdam, is in the pitch. Marcus Thomas, Beachwood, Ohio, which works on Goodyear's Kelly brand, has been doing some work on Dunlop.

Wings of Goodyear
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 is not 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 incumbent WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, Detroit.

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