TBWA\C\D Plays Altima’s Mind Games

LOS ANGELES The latest ad executions for the Nissan Altima from Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\Day represent a shift of perspective, emphasizing cabin features, rather than exterior styling.

“[The campaign] is selling brainpower versus horsepower,” said Rob Schwartz, ecd at the Playa del Rey, Calif., agency. “We’re showing that Altima is beautiful on the outside, but there’s brilliance on the inside. More and more the battle is for the inside.”

In one spot, four women driving in an Altima are asked by a voice over the car’s Blue Tooth wireless phone what they think of the vehicle. One of them says, “Of course, we knew we’d love it,” before the quartet is identified as psychics.

The women rave about the push-button start feature, the hands-free phone and continuously variable transmission.

When the driver asks, “Yes, but can it predict the future?” the real-time traffic reporting function of the GPS warns of congestion ahead. After a pause, one of the women says, “I knew that was going to happen.”

Schwartz said the comic banter and light tone are intended to make the brand communication “more magnetic than dogmatic. Substance with a wink is the hallmark of the [Nissan] brand. Carmakers are spending billions of dollars [on advertising] and not getting billions of return. One of the things we’re trying to do is make work that people want to see and not just come in with a sell.” He said the message resonates and “because it is very conversational, there is no end to what we can do with it.”

Nissan North America in Nashville, Tenn., spent $820 million on ads in 2006, not including the Infiniti brand, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Nissan is up 5 percent in sales for the year through March to 246,000 units, per Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif. The Altima has been particularly successful during that period, selling 74,000 units, up 22 percent.