Goodyear hunts for AOR as profits continue upswing

AKRON, OH: Goodyear Tire & Rubber is searching for an AOR that it hopes to begin working with before the end of this year.

AKRON, OH: Goodyear Tire & Rubber is searching for an AOR that it hopes to begin working with before the end of this year.

While the company won't discuss potential billings, the assignment is likely to be sizable, given the tire maker's $18.4 billion in sales last year.

Goodyear hasn't had an AOR in recent years, instead using various firms for individual projects, said Ed Markey, VP of PR for Goodyear's North American tire division.

Now in the midst of a major financial turnaround, the company wants one PR agency with which it can "develop a longer-term relationship," he said.

The 107-year-old company has had five consecutive quarters of positive net income, thanks to a major change in operating philosophy.

"Over the past several years, we have evolved from a company that was manufacturing-focused to one that is marketing-focused as well," Markey said. "We were driven by the manufacturing side in the past. Now we're consumer-focused."

The media appear to be getting the message, Markey said.

A Wall Street Journal Heard on the Street column from August 16 discussed Goodyear's new marketing prowess, specifically its success in moving consumers to higher-priced tire lines.

The company plans to push its message on Wall Street next month by sending senior managers to New York for their first major meetings with investors in almost two years.

The tire maker is also searching for an ad agency for its Goodyear brand in the US and does not care if the firms are owned by a common holding company, Markey said.

"We wouldn't be surprised if it were a mix of firms" from different holding companies, he said.

Goodyear is using Jones Lundin Beals' Chicago office to handle its PR agency search. It's working with the New York office of the same firm for its ad agency hunt. The firm was selected by the company's marketing department.

Incumbent ad agency Arnold Worldwide has been invited to take part in the search.

Those familiar with Goodyear see the hiring of a PR agency as a logical step in the company's revitalization.

Goodyear is "one of the most recognized brands in the world," said Craig Harris, senior portfolio manager at Morgan Asset Management in Birmingham, AL. More coordinated communications could aid in product launches and efforts to tell investors that its financial health is improving despite lingering problems like a heavy debt load, he said.

Dave Zielasko, editor and publisher of Tire Business magazine, said the company has been working to improve its relationship with independent tire dealers. "They've made some great strides," in dealer relations, he said, and a PR firm could help in continuing that momentum, as well.

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