HAMBURG - Continental AG is using sex to sell tires. That's not a new idea, but Continental says it has gone further than other advertisers to make the point that men love cars like they love women.
Continental's suggestive new brand image campaign, called 'The Secret Love Affair' will run in 18 European countries.
The campaign has started in Germany with eight print advertisements and short television and cinema spots. Subtitles in the spots read: 'Most men have a secret love affair ... hopefully they use the right rubber.'
The brand logo follows with the slogan: 'Do it with German engineering.'
The campaign will be introduced in the UK in July and France in September. Other European countries will start early next year.
The cost of the television and print campaign will be around DM30 million (euro 15.2 million, $15.9 million).
'We identified men as our target group because they have an interest in cars and technical equipment,' said Torsten Meier, Continental's head of European advertising.
Meier said the campaign is targeted at high-income men who enjoy driving, own more powerful than average cars and are well-educated.
'We were looking for an idea that would touch men of all types and social backgrounds and would cross national borders,' Meier said. 'It was not the differences we were interested in, it was the common aspects. And we found it in men's love affair with cars.'
In street interviews, Continental and its advertising agency, Ammirati Puris Lintas, asked men in Germany, Italy, France and England about their relationship with their cars. Over 60 percent said they loved driving.
'So our next question was: What can the tire contribute to this love?' Meier said. 'It can add safety and emotion.'
It's an old message, but he said Continental wanted to deliver it in a new way.
'We were looking for the big emotions, which all men in Europe share,' Meier said. 'AP Lintas came up with their ideas based on the perception that men have an attitude toward cars quite similar to the one they have toward women.'
The Hamburg-based advertising agency won the pitch against four other agencies - two German, one British and one French.
The creative brief focused on performance and safety.
'The message we got from the field research interviews was: 'Driving is like sex,'' Meier said. 'So we needed to get the message to the customer: 'Driving with Continental tires is like safer sex,' total fun, but no risk.'
Peter Mentner, manager of AP Lintas' consultant business, said the Continental campaign does not exploit women. He said five of the agency's nine-member team for the campaign were women.
Agency executives said women reacted positively to the campaign when it was tested in Paris, London and Hamburg. An independent researcher questioned 200 people in each city after showing them the campaign. The test groups were split into male and female groups.
'We only received positive comments,' said Meier. 'The campaign is clearly erotic, but in an abstract sense. It is more like a feminization of the car. But there are no feelings of discrimination. You will not find one sexist sequence in the whole campaign.'