TBWA\Chiat\Day's first Nissan effort under creative director Joe Shands, who admits he's "not really a car guy," takes a more emotional approach for the Altima sedan.
"We're going to strategically return to the 'cure for the common car' platform," said Rob Schwartz, executive creative director of the Playa del Rey, Calif., shop. "The shift is that the [sedan] category is typically a left-brain purchase. Here, we've tapped into the right brain. We've calibrated the campaign to be more emotional."
Shands said Schwartz and TBWA\ C\D worldwide chief creative Lee Clow told him that for Nissan, "we're going to have conversations with consumers, not just show the metal."
"You want to show it, see it going fast, admire the interior," he said. "But you can never get away from the personal, human connection."
In one of two spots that broke last week, a team of lawyers dressed in black invades a suburb at night and compels somnolent men to sign papers they pull from briefcases.
"One night, some lawyers snuck into your home and made you sign a contract dictating that you have to be a mature, sedan-driving adult," a voiceover says. "The bad news: That's really your signature on the contract. The good news: There's a loophole. No one said it has to be boring."
A silver Altima speeds through the 'burb, lighting effects on its distinctive rear, and blows the contracts out of the lawyers' hands.
A second spot focuses more on the car, with a 360-degree sweep of a moving Altima before the camera peers inside to gaze at the instrument panel. "Go ahead, stare," says the voiceover. "Frankly, it would be rude not to." The spots are tagged, "Shift_conformity" and "Shift_status quo."
Last year's effort for Altima from TBWA\C\D emphasized features, touting the rationality of buying a sensible sedan.
"The sedan category is kind of invisible, even though there are lots of them out there," Shands said. "Many people who buy a sedan consider it a compromised decision—not passionate, but reasonable. The spot holds a mirror up to the consumer."
Shands, most recently at independent Wieden + Kennedy in Amsterdam, took over creative reins on Nissan at the Omnicom agency six months ago. He replaced Chris Graves, who last June joined Team One in El Segundo, Calif.
Shands has done work on Isuzu and Porsche while at Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners from 1993-97, but he is better known for work on brands such as Nike and the California Milk Processors Board.
"Joe's not necessarily a car guy, but a good brand guy," Schwartz said. "His ideas tend to be very intimate."
A third spot, called "Memo," will break in three months, said Fred Suckow, director of marketing at Nissan in Gardena, Calif. Suckow said spending will be consistent with recent years. Nissan put $205 million behind Altima in 2002 and $175 million behind it last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.
"[Honda] Accord and [Toyota] Camry cut a wide swath in this category," Suckow said, "so it is about being distinctive."