By: Ken Liebeskind
Newspaper Web Sites Also Get Tire Ads
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by Ken Liebeskind
The recall of Firestone tires has been the subject of major
advertising campaigns conducted by both Bridgestone/Firestone
Inc. and the Ford Motor Co., with newspapers the primary vehicles
used by both companies.
Both have placed newspaper ads in dozens of markets in ongoing
campaigns that launched Aug. 11.
Ford’s campaign started first, with ads in USA Today and The Wall
Street Journal followed two days later by ads in local papers in
Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas. Those states were chosen
because hot weather apparently contributes to the tire problem,
which is being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration. Then ads were run in papers in the top 20 markets
and all the state capitals in an effort to blanket the country, said
Christine Toth, a supervisor at J. Walter Thompson, Ford’s advertising
agency in Detroit.
Bridgestone/Firestone’s ads started about a week later and appeared
in most of the same papers, although the companies didn’t work
together on the campaign, according to Bill George, a Ford spokesman.
Ford also ran online ads — on the USAToday.com and Wall Street
Journal Interactive Edition sites, among others — at the start
of the campaign, because both online and print vehicles “are great
for immediacy,” Toth said.
On Aug. 21, a Ford TV spot broke on ABC’s “Monday Night Football,”
with spot TV starting later in the week. The TV campaign broke much
later than the newspaper ads because newspapers provide “quick
turnaround,” Toth said. Another reason for the TV delay was the Screen
Actors Guild strike. “We had to get the UAW’s [United Auto Workers’]
OK to produce the spot,” Toth said. Bridgestone/Firestone is advertising
less frequently than Ford and is only using newspapers, said spokesman
The biggest beneficiary of the newspaper advertising has been USA Today,
which had run five full-page ads by early last week, with more planned.
On Aug. 18, the paper published back-to-back full-page ads placed by
the two companies.
“It’s unique,” said Heidi Henderson, a USA Today spokeswoman, who noted
the paper has never published ads that way before because no similar
situation has involved more than one company. The back-to-back ad
placements weren’t planned, but occurred because they were the only
spaces available to the advertisers, since they bought them at the last
minute, she said.
Both companies created two versions of the ads, an initial announcement
and an update. Ford’s ads provided information on which models were
being recalled with diagrams illustrating how customers could identify
them. Firestone’s ads were letters from company President John Lampe
and CEO Masatoshi Ono offering free replacements. All of the ads were
black and white. Neither company announced the amount spent on its
Papers in smaller markets carrying the ads included the Corpus Christi
(Texas) Caller-Times, The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun, and the Pasadena
Ford is the only automotive company that has run ads about the recall
because most of the tires involved are on Ford vehicles. It had been
reported initially that General Motors Corp. vehicles had the defective
tires, forcing the company to issue a statement to clear its name. The
company announced that it uses Firestone tires, but not the models
Ford’s George said the company ran its ads because “we wanted to get
the word out as quickly as we could.” Walt Sharp, a Bridgestone/
Firestone spokesman, said the ads ran “to promote consumer safety.”
Julia Edell, an associate professor at Duke University, said, “They’re
trying to shape the brand image, which has been tarnished.” Newspapers
were used because “when you want to communicate a serious message, you
use them. TV doesn’t have the same serious info component.”
Both companies said they will continue advertising the recall, with no
indication when the ads will stop. Toth said Ford ran additional ads
in all markets last weekend and plans more ads this week.
Ken Liebeskind is a free-lancer for E&P.
(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher