Continental Tires Jumps Into Safety-Debate Fray

A week after Ford Motor Co. severed its 95-year relationship with Firestone tires, a new ad for Continental Tire, North America, has triggered possible legal action.

Boone/Oakley in Charlotte, N.C., a boutique run by former Martin Agency creatives David Oakley and John Boone, broke a one-time print ad in USA Today this past Tuesday that positioned Continental’s high-performance tire as a lifesaver.

The ad, one of a series that links Continental tires to cultural icons, depicts an open roll of rainbow Life Savers with tires substituted for the circular candy. The image is labeled “LifeSafe”; Continental’s logo also appears. The tagline is, “They’re not just tires, they’re Continental tires.”

“Continental wants to build awareness about the safety and performance of their brand; they need high-impact work to do it,” said Oakley, shop co-creative di rector.

“We thought it was an effective ad, a one-time event,” said Jim Mayfield, vp of marketing for Charlotte-based Continental.

The ad’s initial impact was felt in Parsippany, N.J., where sources said Nabisco’s legal department fired off a letter threatening legal action against Continental for allegedly infringing upon its trademarked “Life Savers” brand. At press time, Nabisco officials had not returned calls.

Sources said Continental assured Nabisco the ad would not run again.

Continental, a subsi diary of German tire maker Continental AG, manufactures tires used on some Ford vehicles. The “LifeSafe” ad, part of the shop’s $5 million TV and print campaign, will give way to three more print ads this summer: one shows a peace sign; another depicts a life preserver.

Boone and Oakley, who set up shop in October, have been quick to link ads to news-making events. During last year’s presidential campaign, they created a billboard for a job-placement firm that showed a photo of George Bush, with the copy, “Gore 2000,” next to it. The joke, which was picked up by CNN, was paid off by a second billboard advertising for a proofreader.