Thompson Sets Nissan’s Ad Plans

When veteran automotive marketing executive Jan Thompson joined Nissan North America as vp of marketing in June from Omnicom Group’s Designory in L.A., “a tsunami hit me,” she said.

The car maker was in the midst of a frenetic 18-month stretch in which it launched new versions of its entire product line, with the exception of Sentra. Still to come in the first three months of 2005: a new Frontier truck, the Xterra SUV and the Infiniti M45 sedan. After that, the car maker “will be in sustaining mode,” Thompson said.

On the agenda for the new year and beyond: keep national ad spending steady and intensify the company’s Internet efforts. Nissan spent $940 million on advertising in 2003, according to TNS/CMR Media Intelligence.

As for the ongoing “Shift” campaign from Omnicom’s TBWA\ Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., Thompson noted, “We’ve had so many launches and need to culminate all of this now in big, bold family spots. The first thing I did was ask the agency to do full-line SUV and truck spots.”

Thompson, who oversaw Mazda marketing from 1988 to 1994 and had stints at Chrysler and Lexus, took over for Steve Whilhite, who was named Nissan vp of global marketing. Thompson said she will be “very focused on Web-based initiatives, while Steve really focused on the agency and awareness and the upper-funnel [branding and identity] measures.”