Minorities Are a Major Concern at Nissan

INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. Steve Wilhite, vp of marketing at Nissan North America, stressed the necessity of advertising to the African American and Latino communities in a presentation at the Los Angeles Advertising Agencies Association spring conference on Friday.

Wilhite said the ad industry has tended to act as if it is selling cars “to people like us, white, middle-aged males. But the cultural landscape is changing rapidly.” Today Hispanics make up half of all new workers in the U.S., he pointed out, and that by 2050 Latinos will dominate the youth market.

Wilhite showed campaigns involving guerrilla marketing, Black History Month interstitial programs and “graffiti”-corrupted billboards by the Gardena, Calif., car maker’s minority agencies, True, a subsidiary of Nissan lead agency Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., and Carol H. Williams Advertising, Oakland, Calif. Wilhite called the work examples of Nissan’s going beyond advertising to “meaningful dialogue in the community.”

“We need to be more adventurous and creative about the way we communicate in the marketplace,” said Wilhite. “Doing business the way we have is not going to take us forward. Whether [such ads] resonate with you is not important. What matters is the willingness to engage and try new things for your consumers.”

Wilhite told the LAAAA audience he’s not enamored of buying top-rated shows such as Friends, American Idol and Survivor. “They may be efficient buys for a broad audience, but they’re not an efficient buy for receptivity,” he said. “I’d rather pay more per point and get a better customer.”

After the presentation, Wilhite said he is ordering “significantly fewer spots and fewer executions this year,” even if spending remains constant. “They will be on point,” he said. “The core values must stay the same. We’re trying to make the work more cohesive and consistent.”

Wilhite added that the various dealer-association regional ads, by Omnicom’s Zimmerman & Partners Advertising, would be reined in to align with the core-values brand message. “They can choose options from a portfolio to suit certain regional needs and tastes,” he explained. “But they can no longer just go out and do their own spots if they don’t like the national advertising.”