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Michelin Man Burns Rubber

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Only the charismatic Michelin Man could get a bunch of jaded ad folk to cheer and clap and act enthused. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's the client.

Several hundred Campbell-Ewald Advertising employees gathered in the Warren, Mich., agency's lobby recently to hold a mock political rally for Biben dum, the Michelin Man. He's running for "Mayor of Mobility," and pulling a John McCain with a "whistle-stop bus tour" that hits 11 states and 16 cities in nine days. His rock-star-like tour bus is decked out in Michelin colors (royal blue and yellow) with a giant Michelin Man on each side.

The tour also introduces a new TV campaign starring the gentle puffball, who hasn't appeared prominently in the tire company's ads for 18 years.

MM, as he is known to his friends (not to be confused with Detroit rap artist Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem), handed out tire gauges to fans, who held signs saying things like "Inflation, yes!" and "He thrives under pressure!" His campaign literature reads: "Unlike other politicos, who won't touch the issue of inflation, the Michelin Man encourages proper inflation in all tires for all people."

At the rally, MM presented chief creative officer Bill Ludwig with the "key to mobility." Nancy Banks, MM's campaign manager and translator, said a few words on his behalf. MM was "truly a refreshing kind of political candidate—very few words," quipped one agency staffer.

Hopefully the hoopla won't give him an overinflated ego.