Nissan’s Thompson Joins Omnicom

NEW YORK Former Nissan marketing chief Jan Thompson has joined the Omnicom Group’s Diversified Agency Services.

Thompson will be involved with a number of major accounts, including Chrysler, as an executive vice president. She joins former Lexus marketing head Deborah Wahl Meyer, now Chrysler CMO, and Chrysler vice chairman Jim Press, former president of Toyota Motor North America, in the Chrysler ranks.

Thompson, 57, left Nissan in September.

She joined the company in June 2004 after serving five years as CEO of Omnicom’s Designory marketing-services company. In addition to her work at Designory, Thompson also worked with Omnicom agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., while at Nissan.

“With Jan Thompson on board at [Omnicom], it will be interesting to see her impact [on Chrysler],” said George Peterson, president of Auto Pacific, a marketing research firm based in Tustin, Calif. He noted that the launches of some products from Chrysler this year might have been lost amid the company’s changing of hands.

A private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management, bought Chrysler in May for $7.4 billion.

“Chrysler has seen a lot of changes this year, and it appears that they may not have had as much time as they’d like to focus on marketing,” Peterson said. “This will solidify a new direction.”

Omnicom includes Chrysler agencies Organic, Detroit; BBDO, Detroit; and Cutwater, San Francisco.

The brand’s marketing has faced criticism in the past year from dealers who felt that broadcast spots were not product-centric enough.

From Thompson, dealers can expect marketing that leans more on interactive and more ROI-based platforms.

During her tenure at Nissan, Thompson implemented a growing reliance on user-generated content (e.g., the “7 Days in a Sentra” campaign, in which a young man spends a week residing in his car and documents it via blog and vlog) and cited an ROI-driven platform that relies heavily on the Internet.

Since her departure from Nissan, Thompson had been the favorite to head marketing at Volkswagen. In October, she confirmed to Brandweek that she was in the running, but the job went to former Volvo marketing head Tim Ellis last month.

In an interview with Forbes in September, Thompson hinted that the wave of corporate celebrity being brought to Chrysler was an omen: “If they can get Jim Press, anything can happen,” she told Forbes. “Is this the beginning of something?”

The Chrysler Group spent $1.35 billion on ads in 2006, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.