‘X’ Marks the Spot in Nissan Xterra Campaign

NEW YORK Nissan said it is launching a slate of TV, print and outdoor ads starting this week to promote its new 2005 Xterra.

Nissan launched print and TV teasers this month that show various sports accoutrements crossed to form an “X.”

Ads use an outdoor sports/adventure theme to tout features such as a step-up rear bumper, sealed storage compartments and greater power under the hood.

The effort, via Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., continues to position the SUV as a proxy for adventure. Nissan spent $35 million on Xterra ads last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The latest ads, however, including four print executions, make an appeal to outdoor athletes and employ “math formulas” for which “X” (Xterra) is the always the solution. Examples: “Gravity – Fear = X” and “3ft. fresh powder + day off = X.”

Three TV ads, set to hard-driving rock music by local Los Angeles and London bands, show kayakers, surfers, trail foot-racers, and snowboarders using Xterras to carry their gear.

Erich Marx, marketing manager for Nissan SUVs, said the target buyer, regardless of age, dreams of romping in the outback, even if he or she doesn’t. “It’s all about usefulness for an outdoor lifestyle,” he said. “But we don’t focus on vehicle off-road capability, because we know 90 percent of the people who drive SUVs drive them on roads.”

Marx said other vehicles in the consideration set include Ford Escape and Jeep Liberty—compact SUVs in the under-$25,000 price range.

“We are looking for about 20 percent increase in volume,” he said, adding that the company sold about 68,000 last year.

Marx said Nissan counts on Xterra joining nameplates like Pathfinder and Maxima in bringing back previous owners. “It is conquest, but we will do better with previous Xterra owners than a lot of people think,” he said.

The new model has 45 percent more horsepower and is also larger. Nissan is doing several direct-marketing efforts targeting prospects and current as well as previous owners, including a million-insert drop in Chase billing statements and mailings to around 700,000 Xterra owners and prospects.