Brands Are Made of Ideas. Tires Are Made of Rubber.

L.A. Times has a story about a multinational brand caught in the middle of a larger story about crime, nature, globalization, history, imperialism and poverty. The setting is Liberia, the African nation emerging from 14 years of civil war. The brand is Japanese-owned Bridgestone.
Bridgestone is in Liberia for its natural resources. Rubber is Liberia’s biggest export and Bridgestone’s Firestone plantation, which is on 200 square miles, is the country’s biggest employer, with 6,000 workers. It exports concentrated latex and dried crumb rubber from Liberia. Bridgestone pays local tappers $3.38 a day for their skilled manual labor.
The problem for Bridgestone is iIllicit tapping, part of a wave of criminality driven by an 80% poverty rate and high unemployment, particularly among ex-combatants. Liberia’s police force, in the process of being restructured and professionalized, cannot cope with the crime wave. Renegade tappers come in broad daylight, with guns, machetes, knives and buckets of acid. Hence, Bridgestone’s employees are frightened to work. It’s almost enough to make one concerned about the poor multinational.
But a quick jump over to Stop Firestone ought to cure that soft sentiment. The activists’ argument goes like this, “Firestone has extracted rubber and exploited the Liberian people since 1926.”
We in Adlandia spend our days working to make brands look good. We spend next to no time thinking about what might lie under the surface of our manufactured gloss, good, bad or otherwise.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Thanks for spreading the word about Firestone and more this interesting blog entry! As you noted, there is a global campaign to hold Firestone accountable for its use of child labor, abuse of workers’ rights and destruction of the environment in Liberia. Keep checking for more information. We also have more in depth video reports on the situation at Thanks again and please check out the site to take action!

  2. Dream Bestman says:

    I was born at Division 28 Hospital in Firestone. The situation there is horrible for tappers and other laborers. The company is only good for Staff. Even the housing condition for local labourers is not good at all. My father was a tracktor driver. The salary is little and the work is hard for one man to finish. So you will then need help from your children to get you work completed. May God help our people.