Bridgestone selects national models from Nashville

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Bridgestone will celebrate its fifth year of diversity marketing by launching a new series of national print and Internet advertising featuring some familiar faces from Nashville’s GLBT community.

Pete Pantazis, Trevor Mikula, Stevn Dutton and Rusty (Jonathan) Annis were just a few of the local “celebrities” who were selected from an open casting call at Play Dance Club. Pantazis is a bartender for Play Dance Club and Red Restaurant; Dutton is a local artist and bartender at Play Dance Club and Tribe; Mikula is a local artist and Annis is the voice of Play Dance Club. Exclusive behind-the-scenes photos of the models will premier in the January issue of “O&AN,” along with a complete list of the winners.

More than 200 people tried out for the coveted modeling spots with 96 showing up at Play Dance Club, and 118 at The Cannery’s Mercy Lounge. The casting calls were sponsored by Bridgestone, Gish Sherwood & Friends, Play Dance Club, “Out & About Newspaper,” The Cannery and “The Nashville Scene.” Each of the winning models will receive $2,500 from Bridgestone.

“It was just a tremendous success,” said Michael Fluck, advertising and Internet manager for Bridgestone Firestone (which includes diversity marketing and all national brand advertising). “Play Dance Club was fantastic to work with and Todd and Joey (Todd Roman and Joey Brown, co-owners of Play) go out of their way to make events like this perfect for us. We love doing these searches in our corporate hometown. This is just a win-win for everyone.”

Fluck said the turnout was even greater than last year, and that the diversity and quality of people trying out was excellent.

“We had a great turnout at Play,” he said. “We had some very difficult choices to make and selected the best faces for our upcoming campaign. We appreciate the hard work of ‘Out & About Newspaper’ in getting the word out to more people than ever before. We simply had the best – the best venue, the best newspaper support, the best ad agency and the best people.”

The print ads will carry the theme of sophistication, innovation and dynamic. Fluck wouldn’t revel exactly how the ads would turn out and urged O&AN readers to look for the photos in the January issue of O&AN to see how the new ads might look.

The models will be pampered by the best in the business. Karen Edwards, senior vice president and director of account services for Gish, Sherwood & Friends (the agency handling the Bridgestone account), said a top designer, photographer and stylist had been selected for the photo shoot.

Michael McCall will be the hair/makeup artist; Jennifer Kemp, the stylist; and John Scarpati, the photographer.

“The hair/makeup artist, stylist and photographer are the same people we used last year and they did a fabulous job,” Edwards said.

Last year was the first year a model search was held in Nashville and more than 92 people came to the open casting call at Play. Joe Woolley, Justin Shephard, Shelby Hall and Alicia Hodge were selected for the GLBT campaign. Fluck said that last year’s method of selecting local models was very successful and credited Laramey Lawson, senior vice president and media director at Gish Sherwood & Friends, for having the idea.

“Laramey thought it would be great to have the community involved and have the interaction of the communities that we are reaching out to,” Fluck said. “We certainly discovered new talent last year and we’ve been able to do the same this year.”

The economic impact of Bridgestone selecting local models and having the photo shoot done locally is significant. Fluck wouldn’t release exact numbers, but industry insiders say the local economic impact could be more than $100,000.

“Bridgestone is the only tire company which markets directly to the gay and lesbian communities,” Fluck explained. “The initiative to hire local models fits in with our support of the community and within the mission of our company supporting diverse charities within the community.”

Bridgestone has been a supporter of the local HRC dinner, GLBT Life and Business Expo and Nashville Pride.

“Bridgestone has realized that it just makes good business sense to reach out to diverse markets and that includes the national and local GLBT communities,” said Christopher Sanders, president of the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce. “I think we’ll see more national and local based companies reach out to Nashville’s growing GLBT market within the next three years.”

Models hired from the Nashville search will appear in print and Internet campaigns that include the gay and lesbian community, the Hispanic community, the African-American community and the mainstream community. They are all part of Bridgestone’s efforts to recognize and respect those community members.

“It’s not about just running ads,” said Fluck. “It’s about creating respect for our diverse base of customers – the whole package.