Strong Sales to Hispanics Spur Nissan Search

LOS ANGELES Nissan Motors America’s “explosive growth” in car sales to Hispanics triggered the agency review now under way [Adweek online, June 21], said Jon Cropper, senior manager for youth and urban communications at the automaker.

The sales, said Cropper, led Nissan to re-examine its relationship with its Hispanic agency, independent Ornelas & Associates in Dallas and Santa Monica, Calif. “I credit Ornelas with speaking to discrete audiences with honesty and intimacy,” he said. “That’s why they have been invited to defend in the review. But we felt this is a good time to examine our options. We need an agency to develop and grow with us.”

“We are proud of the creative we have done,” said Victor Ornelas, agency president and CEO. “Some of our work has even aired in the general market.” Such work on the estimated $30 million account includes two executions in the “Life” campaign for the Nissan Altima, and “Wild Card” and “Expressions” for the Frontier truck.

Both vehicles do well in their categories, according to R.L. Polk in Detroit, which bases its data on automobile registrations: Through May, Altima is the No. 1 four-door, midsize sedan among Hispanics, with 10,729 vehicles sold and 20 percent of the category, ahead of both the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Frontier holds 20 percent of the compact-truck market for a solid second place, selling 4,132 units through May, but Toyota’s Tacoma dominates the category among Hispanics, with a 40 percent share. Nissan is now tied with Honda for fourth place as a brand, with 9.2 percent of the market, according to Polk.

Cropper said the Cypress, Calif., automaker’s general-market advertising, from Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., speaks to the consumer “with a higher degree of emotion,” and although there is a limited amount of interplay between the two agencies’ campaigns, the company plans to continue separate strategies.

Cropper added that 40 percent of Latino sales occur in the Southwest, which the company categorizes as California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. Its agency search, via consultancy Select Resources International in Santa Monica, however, will be nationwide and limited to shops that are majority-Hispanic-owned. But because the growth of Hispanic agencies has typically been in lockstep with the automobile business, few of the largest Hispanic agencies are without client conflicts.

Potential suitors include independents Anita Santiago Advertising in Santa Monica; Cartel Group in San Antonio; LatinWorks Marketing in Austin, Texas; Lopez Negrete Communications in Houston; Vidal Partnership in New York; and San Jose Group in Chicago. Those agencies at least partially owned by holding companies, such as Omnicom Group’s Del Rivero Messianu DDB in Coral Gables, Fla., and Interpublic Group’s Siboney in Miami and Casanova Pendrill Publicidad in Costa Mesa, Calif., would have to demonstrate at least 51 percent Hispanic ownership to be considered, Cropper said, declining to be specific about which agencies don’t quality. He added that he expects a cut in the next two weeks to seven contenders, including incumbent Ornelas, and a decision by early September.