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Riding in Cars With Polar Bears

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As part of its ongoing efforts to make Bridgestone the "gateway" brand for younger consumers, Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire will feature its first mascot—a polar bear—in a new campaign that launches in December for Blizzak cold-weather tires.

The TV and print effort, via Grey in New York, focuses on the bear (who carries a suitcase) and includes a new version of the "Wheel" theme song, inspired by the Rosanne Cash tune. One ad shows a sedan cruising through a snowy forest. A polar bear sees it, pulls a briefcase out of the snow, flags the car down and hops in. Text reads, "Why hibernate?"

The Blizzak tire, which has been sold in the U.S. since the early 1990s, is also being repositioned, said Phil Pacsi, vp of marketing at the Nashville, Tenn., company. "In the past, we always focused exclusively on cars driving in harsh winter conditions, on tire performance," he said. "But with this execution, we decided to be lighthearted."

POP materials include a stuffed bear that emits the Bridgestone song when poked in the stomach, banners and tire-stack toppers.

The company is spending heavily in an effort to distance itself from Bridgestone's Firestone brand, being positioned as a performance tire. Last year, Bridgestone broke ads featuring Gen-Xers traipsing among tires and holding digital products.

Spending on the campaign was undisclosed. Bridgestone/Firestone spent $30 million last year on measured media and about $15 million the year before, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.