What is the Tall, Puffy Michelin Man Doing in a Xerox Ad?

Barbara Basney, Vice President, Global Advertising, Xerox

Well, as you’ve seen in Xerox advertising, it’s all about real business.  Michelin is a leader in the tire market since 1832, operating in over 170 countries.  The company’s iconic Michelin Man’s  business is about showing a better way forward with Michelin tires and products.   Xerox borrowed him to be our star in the latest Ready for Real Business ad, giving him the freedom to focus on fighting off The Evil Gas Pump Monsters while Xerox handles Michelin’s accounting and financial processes.

Since 2007, Xerox has provided Michelin with a full suite of financial and accounting solutions, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, fixed assets, and inter-company accounting.   And, we serve Michelin’s global operations in Barcelona, Manila, Sao Palo, Tempe, Juarez, Tianjin China, and soon we’ll be serving its Bangkok Centers of Excellence.    As a result, Michelin’s financial group has standardized processes, reduced costs, and enhanced quality, meeting the company’s global requirements.

With Xerox behind him, the Michelin Man can give full attention to his priorities….. fighting the evil gas pump monsters; oh, and making the most innovative, best performing tires in the industry!    Check out the Michelin Man in action

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  1. […] a short parody of a misled solution to a common customer problem. Xerox just did a great job with this in their recent commercial featuring Michelin. I thought it was funny even though I didn’t […]

  2. Logan McHenry July 8, 2011 - Reply

    nice partnership, nice ad

  3. Lekarshi September 10, 2011 - Reply

    Thanks for this write up. I couldnt for the life of me understand this commercial. It is ridiculous for the lay man to understand so much and appreciate Xerox’s relationship with Michelin. But Xerox is indeed a great company who pioneered most inventions that are successful products today.

  4. LisaG September 12, 2011 - Reply

    After seeing this ad repeatedly during US Open broadcasts last week, I was asked by both my spouse and a friend to explain it (I work for Xerox). Both assumed the people in the car were Xerox employees bothering the Michelin Man for help with accounting, which I assume is not the intended take-away! The point is that while it is an entertaining ad, the message should be clear and not require insider knowledge to interpret how Xerox is bringing value to the relationship. Another observation is that because the Michelin Man is so recognizable, the casual observer will assume it is a Michelin ad (as I did the first several viewings) and not even pick up on the Xerox message unless they are listening to the voiceover narrative at the end. A bit of a missed opportunity in my view.

  5. david michael September 12, 2011 - Reply

    This is the worst ad i have ever seen. the first few times i saw it, i thought it was a typical michelin ad. and it is not at all clear what xerox is doing. i guess the ad writers decided that they did not really want to convey any message whatsoever to the audience, which makes one question the purpose of buying advertisement space!

  6. Barbara Basney September 13, 2011 - Reply

    Thank you for all the feedback on our new Michelin commercial. As with most television commercials, we do our best to communicate a high level partnership with a global customer in a creative and engaging way. For those interested in getting more detail around how we manage Michelin’s Finance processing, check out http://www.realbusiness.com. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot new things that you never thought Xerox did!

  7. Bradford October 30, 2011 - Reply

    The “Tall, Puffy Michelin Man” has a name, Bibendum. I had a difficult time finding this article because of its poor title. A better title might have been “What is Bibendum, the Michelin Man, doing in a Xerox ad?”

    Beyond the title, I share the same issue as the Xerox employee (Comment 4) above. It seemed like the accountants were from Xerox and were stopping poor Bibendum from getting on with his important work. I thought that Michelin was maybe getting into business services and helping Xerox? I had to search out this article to make sense of it. It would have made more sense if some Xerox branded people showed up at the end and said something like “We’ll take it from here” and sent the car accountants away to let Bibendum get back to work. I very much like Bibendum and have a positive impression of Xerox. This advertisement lowered my impression of Xerox.

    • erinisselmann November 7, 2011 - Reply

      Thank you for taking time to share your views about our Michelin commercial. We do robust research and testing of each of our commercials, and I am pleased to report that the Michelin TVC was one of our strongest performers — enjoyed, effective at communicating our message and for generating future consideration of Xerox Finance& Accounting Services. That said, it is appreciated that advertising is never enjoyed or understood by 100% of viewers, and I am sorry you did not care for this commercial — hopefully you like our other commercials better. (Barbara Basney, Vice President, Xerox Global Advertising)

  8. Joe November 2, 2011 - Reply

    Seriously, this is the most confusing commercial in history. I have seen it about 50 times and finally decided to Google it, only to find out that nobody knew what it meant. It took a trip to xerox.com to figure out what the heck was going on. Somebody needs to be fired.

  9. Fleenburg November 6, 2011 - Reply

    My husband and I saw this ad and tried to analyze it for about 20 minutes. We had NO idea what the Michelin guy was doing there and how he related to Xerox. Why did Xerox need his help to process their accounts? The acting was superb and the guy was hilarious: “both are important” but we still had no idea what was being advertised.

  10. Ben November 10, 2011 - Reply

    effective at communicating our message? – NOT AT ALL. Thougt it was a Michelin ad and some stupid finance guys disturb Bibendum because they have no clue at all. XEROX asking Michelin for help…thats the message I got. But what else should a VP comment. The money has been burned anyway…

  11. Tom January 7, 2012 - Reply

    There’s that word again “robust”. A totally meaningless word unless it’s used to described red wine. So the Michelin Man throwing tires at a gas pump (an abstract concept to begin with) is somehow about XEROX. Face it, the ad agency simply recycled a good ad and threw in a sentence about XEROX and confused everyone. Somehow their “robust” research missed that.

  12. Ed Ross February 9, 2012 - Reply

    The only “focus group” that could have scored this ad so highly had to be Xerox insiders. After seeing it many times, replaying, analyzing, I still could not understand the annoying Xerox accountants in the car. The whole point is to be explained in the rushed voiceover at the end?
    This only shows how myopic admen can be, enthralled by their creativity while losing the message.

  13. chris February 13, 2012 - Reply

    how dumb are all of you? the ad TELLS YOU WHAT IT IS ABOUT! it’s about Xerox freeing michelin to do the important tasks at hand rather than being interrupted by office mgmt details, IT’S IN THE AD COPY! Geez. spoon fed generation, take a bow.

  14. Nancy February 18, 2012 - Reply

    I am trying to figure out who the actors in the car are. They look familiar. Anybody know? I think the woman might be Catherine Dent from The Shield?

  15. Linda April 22, 2012 - Reply

    Clearly the ad fails when it leaves ao many viewers scratching their heads as to what’s going on and what the take away is. To thank the commenter and then defensively explain what the ad was intending to convey (to those “dense” viewers who just aren’t smart enough to get it) demonstrates the real take away here — what artogance! It’s Xerox and their admen who are actually the ones who don’t “get it” – the ad misses the point that the intended message just doesn’t successfully “land”.

  16. Victoria Olson May 13, 2012 - Reply

    This ad confused my husband and me, and we have business degrees. We had no idea Xerox had those services. First things first, inform us that the services exist. Xerox and financial management services? Who knew? The gas monster is very distracting. Whoever approved this ad knew what they wanted to say, but did not view it objectively. Fail!

  17. Brenda Stanfill September 8, 2012 - Reply

    Maybe they weren’t so dumb on creating this since all of us are taking the time to research what it means, learning more about Xerox and Michelin, and commenting on their ad on their website. Maybe more of a genious??

  18. Joann September 24, 2012 - Reply

    Barbara Basney, please stop responding. Once was enough, explaining the concept. The defensive comment that essentially said “It is TOO a good ad! It worked great with our focus groups!” was actually kind of funny. I couldn’t figure out what the Michelin man was doing either and didn’t recognize the gas pump monsters. I did get the idea that Xerox provided some kind of financial services, but I missed that Michelin was the client.

  19. kagey October 20, 2012 - Reply

    Hey Xerox & Barbara –
    I’ve been in the advertising industry for 20+ years and I have to agree with many of the casual viewers that your Michelin Man commercial falls flat. Here’s why:
    Bibendum is fighting the gas pump. Then a car of accounting people pester him to help them. Bibendum simply ignores them and continues fighting the gas pump.
    How does this promote Xerox?
    If Michelin is using Xerox, then why would they bother Bibendum for financial help?
    Are the non-descript folks in the car from Michelin or Xerox? If they’re from Michelin and they use Xerox, why are they bothering the Michelin man?
    Where is the Xerox product or service? Why wouldn’t you personify this?
    If I was a creative on this concept, I’d have Xerox’s mascot (or Xerox personified) handing tires to Bibendum to help him fight the gas pump. So it visually shows how Xerox helps companies focus on what’s important to them.
    The way the commercial plays now the beloved Bibendum is annoyed by accounting folks, which he ignores, and then we see the Xerox logo saying we support account folks. Almost makes it seem like you don’t like the Michelin man.
    Don’t you have any other spots you could put in place during football games? These commercials either create confusion or cast a negative light on your company.

  20. Barbara Basney October 23, 2012 - Reply

    Hi Kagey – thank you for the thoughtful comments about our Michelin TV spot. As with all of the commercials in this campaign, we are depicting (with a wink and a smile) what the situation would be if Xerox were not doing the F&A for Michelin. In which case, Bib would need to be doing a bit of multitasking — rather than focusing on Job #1 which is throwing tires. This is the creative premise for the other TVCs as well featuring Marriott, Ducati, Virgin America.

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