NEW YORK Michelin is rolling out what the French company calls its first global campaign this week, a TV, print and online effort from TBWA\Chiat\Day, New York, that makes a hero out of the Michelin Man with ads carrying the theme "The right tire changes everything."
The campaign launches tomorrow in the U.S. with an animated TV commercial that casts the icon as a superhero, saving a town "held captive by an evil gas pump" that feeds "on people's hard earned money." A giant gas pump terrorizes a town, sucking up drivers' cash, until the icon saves the day by pelting the villainous pump with tires he pulls out of his body. The voiceover explains, "The right tire changes everything," as the Michelin Man tames the unruly pump with energy efficient tires that can help save consumers on outlays for fuel.
The character, who is more than 100 years old and known in markets outside of the U.S. by his name Bibendum, has evolved from a more passive endorser to a more active problem solver, said Scott Clark, evp of Michelin North America and COO of Michelin Americas small tires. The new campaign, he explained, emphasizes "the role tires play in people's everyday lives."
The estimated $20 million North American fourth-quarter push will be followed with localized introductions in Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. For example, in China, ads will emphasize safety and longevity rather than fuel efficiency and cost savings featured in the U.S.
Additional American ads will highlight two other competitive claims: the tires help drivers stop 14 feet short of target and that the premium-priced tires last 33,000 miles longer than similarly priced competitors, said the company.
Launching the campaign with a spot emphasizing the cost savings of fuel efficiency comes at a time when U.S. tire sales are down 9 percent, said Clark, a dramatic change from a market that is historically plus or minus 2 percent. "In a difficult economic environment, this type of message is very powerful and important to consumers because every dollar they spend today is more critical and important," he said. "We want to educate consumers, when you buy Michelin tires, you may pay more upfront but . . . the cost of a Michelin tire over its lifetime is far less than a competitor's tire."
The Michelin Man has been the star of the company's advertising in the U.S. since 2001, when the firm introduced a campaign from Campbell-Ewald that showed the character accompanying astronauts in space and reluctantly releasing one of his beloved tires for sale from a factory setting. Before that, the Michelin Man competed with an infant for the starring role in ads from DDB that emphasized safety via images of a baby sitting in the middle of a tire.
"The Michelin Man is very well known and is liked," said Claire Dorland-Clauzel, svp of communication and brands. "We are really confident that it is going to work."
Michelin spent $43 million in measured media last year, per Nielsen.