One Brand’s Trip to the Big Game

NEW YORK This year will be Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire’s first time advertising during the Super Bowl. Why now? According to Glenn Dady, brand cd at The Richards Group, this year, Bridgestone could afford it. The company and its agency share the process that resulted in its two 30-second ads. (The company is also a sponsor of the Super Bowl’s halftime show and the NFL Pro Bowl.)

August 2007: The company asks The Richards Group, its agency since 2006, to prepare proposals for its media budget. (Last year Bridgestone spent $60 million in measured media, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. It declined to discuss its media budget in further detail.) The Richards Group makes a Power Point presentation outlining several high-profile sporting events: the Beijing Olympics, college basketball and the Super Bowl. The company, which says it connects strongly with sports’ audiences, is already a sponsor of the World Golf Championships.

“You could see their eyes light up when we got to the … NFL,” says Dady.

September: Bridgestone senior management, including chairman and CEO Mark Emkes, sign off on its Super Bowl buy. The Richards Group is informed of the decision. Next up? “There were a lot of creatives volunteering their services,” says Rob Van Gorden, a Richards Group account director.

Twenty-two teams of two people each are formed and given the creative brief: Bridgestone Tires are engineered to get the most out of your car. The teams come up with 140 ideas, which are whittled down to eight over the course of several days. “There was no screaming or yelling, but people were passionate,” says Dady.

Oct. 10-12: Staffers from The Richards Group fly to Nashville. The creatives stay in the room during the process and everyone has a chance to speak. The spots are ranked by Bridgestone from 1 to 10 (1 being the highest). Due to lack of consensus on the second spot, three go into production.

November: The Richards Group hires director Kinka Usher, from House of Usher. “If you’re doing spots in the Super Bowl, you want to [go to] the top,” says Van Gorden.

Late November-December: The first spot is shot the day after Thanksgiving on the cobblestone streets of Orvieto, Italy. Six days later, the final two spots are shot in Los Angeles. Production wraps on Dec. 19 and the spots are rushed to post-production. Rough cuts are shown to John Gamauf, president, Bridgestone Firestone Consumer Replacement Tire, who approves them. Final spots must be turned over to Fox by Jan. 24.

Mid-January: With the spots nearly done, Bridgestone and The Richards Group begin their media-outreach strategy, including talking with reporters and releasing images from the set. “We were looking at best practices and looked at all the buzz Kevin Federline generated for Nationwide” before the spot aired, says Dan MacDonald, a rep for Bridgestone. “Part of the value in having a Super Bowl spot is people talking about it before and after it airs.”

Bridgestone settles on its two spots: One stars Alice Cooper and Richard Simmons (and possibly a snake or two), while the other features other animals, both real and CG.

Late January: Company won’t tell this reporter the spots’ story lines. —K.H.