Nissan Buckles Down

Mr. K May Have Enjoyed His Last Ride On TV
LOS ANGELES–Mr. K, the ubiquitous icon of Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A.’s advertising for the last two years, could be going the way of Joe Isuzu.
With the company’s sales lagging and its ad strategies in flux, Nissan executives are considering dropping the Mr. K character from future broadcast ads from TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif.
“It’s fair to say that [Mr. K] will have a diminished role,” said John Rinek, director of marketing communications for the Gardena, Calif.-based automaker. “But we haven’t made any decision that he’s out.”
Having seen its sales drop by over 20 percent this year, Nissan has virtually dropped its image-oriented branding work featuring the Mr. K character in favor of hard-sell, model-specific spots. With many new products due to be introduced over the next year–including an all-new Maxima sedan and the automaker’s first mini-sport utility vehicle–almost all of Nissan’s $200 million ad budget is earmarked for model-focused ads.
“[Mr. K] worked well with the branding campaign. He was integral to those commercials,” Rinek said. “But we don’t have a role for him right now.” The automaker will decide Mr. K’s future in broadcast ads sometime next month, he added.
While his days on TV may be numbered, the popular character will continue to be featured in Nissan’s direct marketing and interactive marketing efforts, Rinek said. The client will also retain the “Enjoy the Ride” theme.
Based on Yutaka Katayama, the real-life founder of Datsun in North America, the Mr. K. character first appeared as the star of Nissan’s “Enjoy the Ride” image campaign in 1996. The image effort was specifically created to bridge a year-long gap when Nissan had no major new models to advertise, Rinek said.