Bridgestone/Firestone to Market on iVillage

Embattled tire maker Bridgestone/Firestone is looking to boost its image with female drivers through a new marketing effort on iVillage.

New York-based iVillage, which operates a network of women-oriented Web sites including iVillage.com, Lamaze Publishing and the Newborn Channel, said Tuesday that it has sold Bridgestone/Firestone a month-long sponsorship agreement during June, which is National Safety Month.

The effort comes as the tiremaker, the U.S. unit of Japan-based Bridgestone Corp., is looking to clean up its image while distancing itself from onetime partner Ford Motor Company. For the past year the two companies have been involved in controversy surrounding deaths and injuries in rollovers of Ford’s Explorer sport utility vehicle.

In April, the company rolled out a new broadcast and print ad campaign, “Making it Right,” featuring an appeal by chief executive and president John Lampe to consumers, to encourage them to believe in the company’s concern for auto safety.

Accordingly, under the iVillage agreement, Bridgestone/Firestone will sponsor a tire safety section on iVillage.com and an online quiz. The content area will include information on proper tire maintenance and safety tips, while the quiz will test adults’ knowledge of car seats and is designed to help in understanding their proper use, the companies said.

Both areas also provide links to TireSafety.com, the promotional site Bridgestone/Firestone set up in response to the controversy.

iVillage will promote the content area, the quiz, and TireSafety.com with text, pop-up and banner ads throughout the company’s site network.

In conjunction with the deal, iVillage also said it would be rolling out its new Interquizzal ad unit, with Firestone becoming the first customer. The product works like an interstitial — while results are being “calculated” for the online quizzes, a large pop-up window with an ad appears on-screen. The window closes after about 10 seconds.

“We continue to seek ways to help sponsors more effectively reach their intended demographic, and believe that our new ‘Interquizzal’ offering is yet another example of our commitment to advertisers,” said John Barbera, president of sales and sales marketing at iVillage.

Despite the controversy surrounding its newest advertiser, iVillage executives say they’re satisfied about the arrangement, of which financial terms were not disclosed.

“iVillage is pleased to join with Bridgestone/Firestone as we continue to provide women with important safety information,” Barbera said. “We believe our joint collaboration on the tire and car safety quizzes will have a positive impact on women’s approach to buying car-related products.”

Meanwhile, Firestone said it’s hoping the arrangement will help it reach Net-savvy women with its message of concern about safety.

“We are looking forward to reaching the online female audience through our partnership with iVillage.com and hope that our campaign will drive many people to TireSafety.com,” said Bridgestone/Firestone’s Michael Fluck, who is e-business and Internet manager at the company. “Because tire safety is a crucial part of auto safety, Bridgestone/Firestone is excited about the opportunity to work with iVillage.com during National Safety Month and contribute to their extensive collection of safety information.”

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