CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Continental Tire North America Inc.´s latest push to revitalize the General brand is an ad campaign designed to fish where the fish-or mermaids-are.
Running from June until December 2008, the Charlotte-based tire maker is advertising the General brand in Primedia Inc. and Action Pursuit Group consumer publications with the tagline: "The tire choice of...."
Each ad has a different theme to appeal to a demographic. In the publications that appeal to the 18-24-year-old demographic, the ads portray the General Exclaim UHP as "the tire choice of ninjas" and of mermaids.
"We´d like to think that we´re cutting edge, a little bit different," said Travis Roffler, Conti director of marketing.
Another ad is taglined "The tire choice of living on the edge" and shows a rock climber straining his way up a contoured cliff to reach a luxury car shod with General Grabber UHP tires. For the sport truck enthusiast crowd, a truck parked in a downtown area at night illustrates the General UHP as "the tire choice of late night rendezvous."
Roffler said he, Dana Zamalloa, Conti manager of public relations and communications, and Jeremy Lewin, product planning and brand development manager, created the General ads internally and decided to take a completely different approach to the brand campaign based on feedback from editors of enthusiast publications.
"We knew we needed to turn things upside down if we wanted to make an impact in arenas where General hasn´t played before, and certainly the sport compact car, import tuner arena is not one where General is well known," he said. "Everybody´s tire ads, they´re all kind of starting to look the same: picture of a tire, maybe a car and then a statement. So we really wanted to turn that upside down and do something out of the box. So somebody looks at (a General ad) and says, ´What does a mermaid have to do with a tire?´ "
The answer to that question is displayed at the bottom of the ad with a statement that touts the Exclaim UHP´s wet traction and performance "to make any fantasy a reality." That last phrase conveys to a reader that the tire can deliver the wet traction he or she always dreamed of, Roffler said.
A consumer magazine offers a company only "two to three seconds to capture someone´s attention," he said, and the mermaid and ninja characters are designed to make the reader stop and read the General ads. On the YouTube Web site, Roffler said some of the most popular videos are from askaninja.com.
"It´s crazy, but believe it or not there´s almost a big cult following to ninjas out there in the marketplace, especially in and around the sport compact car enthusiast´s tuner market. So it made a perfect play into the tire choice of ninjas."
Not all the new General ads are targeted to youthful consumers. One ad for the 34-54 age demographic emphasizes General´s 90-year history and shows what is supposed to be a man´s garage wall with a nostalgic photo collage of retro muscle cars and everything he "owned or aspired to own," Roffler said. The tagline in that ad is: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
He declined to disclose how much Conti is spending on the General ad campaign but said there would be many renditions of the message in the next 18 months.