Bridgestone/Firestone became the first tire company in the gay market in July 2001 when it tested a gay-specific campaign and found that its click-through rate was among the best performing of any of its banner ads anywhere. The creative used a stock photography picture of a male couple with the text: "Looking for a smoother ride? Bridgestone." And "The distinction is...Bridgestone."
Even while most advertisers have abandoned click-through rate measurements, Bridgestone was happy with its over 1% return because it does not sell its products online. (The industry average click-through rate is about 0.5%.) The effort simply linked consumers to the home page and was to drive consumers to tire retailers.
Bridgestone, which has been primarily a brand popular with males 25-54 years old, began an initiative to reach outside of that audience about two years ago – long before the company's recent legal and safety troubles, says Phil Pacsi, director of Bridgestone brand and retail marketing. "We had to strengthen the brand beyond that group to grow," Pacsi says.
Gay print media is also a consideration, says Michael Fluck, e-business and internet manager at Bridgestone, who lead the company to the gay sites' trial.
Like an increasing number of companies, Bridgestone/Firestone offers a non-discrimination policy that includes gay employees. Openly gay Fluck says that if it were not for the policy, he would not have recommended the gay marketing effort. "I probably wouldn't even be here," he adds.