MILAN - The end has come for one of Europe's hardest-driving client-agency teams. The Pirelli Group, the Italian maker of tires and cables, has shifted from Young & Rubicam after a seven-year run on its global advertising account. It has moved to Italy's largest advertising agency, family-controlled Armando Testa. Pirelli spends around $30 million on advertising annually.
Starting in September, Armando Testa will begin collaborating with Pirelli on all its international advertising campaigns, both at brand and product level, for tires as well as its cable and system sectors.
In January, Testa unveiled plans to open four wholly-owned offices outside Italy in the first stage of building up a European network. To run the new network as director of international operations, Testa hired David Gray from Young & Rubicam, where he was at one time worldwide managing director on the Pirelli tire account.
Gray was initially at Y&R from 1992-1995 and was then hired by AT&T Corp. as international advertising director for Europe. He returned to Y&R in 1997 as European business development director during a time when the agency won an unprecedented amount of international new business accounts.
Pirelli came close to seeking bankruptcy protection in the early 1990s, but in 1992 the company reorganized its staff and operations and centralized its advertising. Y&R moved Pirelli's image away from expensive tires and sports cars in order to focus on the pleasure of driving with its high-quality tires. One of the early attention-grabbing advertisements featured actress Sharon Stone.
Most memorably, in 1994 Pirelli unveiled its outdoor board and print campaign showing track star Carl Lewis in a pair of red high heels with the tagline: 'Power is nothing without control.'
Lewis was featured again in a 1995 global television commercial for the model P6000 tire which showed him running through New York with Pirelli tire treads on the soles of his feet. Within six months, Pirelli had surpassed its planned production for the entire year.