When Mr. Potato Head might not work

A media advisory for the Chicago Auto Show taking place this weekend reads as follows:

MEDIA ADVISORY — Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head To Visit Chicago Auto Show
Courtesy Of Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
This Saturday, the first 400 attendees to the 2009 Chicago Auto Show will have the opportunity to have their photo taken with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, stars of Bridgestone Americas highly acclaimed 2009 Super Bowl commercials. Chicago Auto Show visitors may also register to win a Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head during periodic drawings to be held at the Bridgestone Americas Booth (NH3).
WHO: Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, acclaimed stars of Bridgestone America’s 2009 Super Bowl Commercials
WHAT: Photo opportunity with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head for the first 400 guests to the Bridgestone Americas booth beginning at 11 am. Tickets for a free Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head will be given away at the information desk in the Bridgestone Americas booth. A drawing* will be held every thirty minutes from 11:30 am – 3 pm.
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 21
11 am – 3 pm
WHERE: Bridgestone Americas, Inc. Exhibit (Booth NH3)
* Note – ticket holders must be present to win.

So here’s the deal. Sometimes an iconic figure is a good thing, and sometimes it doesn’t quite make sense. The Super Bowl commercial that Bridgestone produced was funny (I even laughed out loud when I saw it the first time), but I’m not entirely convinced that extending that commercial into the real world and onto the floor of an auto show is going to drive attendance or increase traffic to the booth. If people are already planning to attend, they might stop by. If they don’t have a ticket yet, I really can’t imagine a scenario where they would buy one because Mr. and/or Mrs. Potato Head are going to make an appearance. Or because you could win one of eight free toys. So why would Bridgestone make this offer?
Here’s what Bridgestone had to say, when asked about their commercials prior to the Super Bowl: “When we set out our thoughts on this coming Bowl we really said we needed to look at what makes [Bridgestone] different and unique, but the spots must also showcase the performance of Bridgestone tires,” says Phil Pacsi, VP/North American consumer tire marketing. [You can read the full article that this quote appeared in on MediaPost.]
I realize they are trying to extend the buzz they received and continue any bump they experienced after that commercial first aired. I realize that it’s possible there are Potato Head fanatics out there. I realize that little kids (who do have parents with disposable income) may think a Potato Head is the coolest toy ever. But I can’t quite make the leap from those realizations to the resources put into this promotional ploy. Is having Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head available for a photo opportunity at the Chicago Auto Show really going to drive results and show up on the bottom line? Do these figures really sell tires? And is it really worth an advisory sent to media outlets that cover cars and the automotive sector? I just can’t see the upside for Bridgestone, even if there is only a limited downside. Hasbro, on the other hand, managed to get their characters into a Super Bowl commercial and a car show. So maybe they were the ones that actually organized and sent the media advisory.
If you happen to be in the Chicago area this week and plan to visit the car show on Saturday, please let us know what you think. A great comment (or photo) might even earn you that Mr. Potato Head toy you’ve always wanted. Our treat.