U.S. APG-ACCOUNT PLANNING AWARDS – The Finalists: Nissan Motor Corp., USA

Enjoy The Ride

Nissan was in the middle of an 18-month model drought. As a 5 percent market share player in a parity market, Nissan lacked the key ingredients of a successful car brand: a unique identity and heritage. Toyota and Honda were launching virtually all new model lineups. Nissan had to do something. Nissan president Bob Thomas wanted Nissan to stand for something more than a collection of models; he wanted to change the way Nissan did business. In December 1995, he decided to change things immediately. The advertising would be the first indicator.
At TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif., we stepped back and rethought the basics about car marketing. We hired cultural anthropologists. We conducted rounds of focus groups to explore the consumer’s relationship with Nissan.
Our research found:
Nissan had no image, despite having a rich heritage of innovative models and technology.
What changed perceptions of Nissan’s reliability was the fact that Nissan has been around since 1958 in the U.S.
There seems to be a collective memory, however vague, of Nissan’s first real success, the 240Z. Nissan is somehow more fun to drive than other Japanese cars.
If we could reassure people of Nissan’s quality through its heritage, we could build a unique image versus our Japanese competitors–through driving pleasure.
But people particularly hate car advertising. It’s all the same: a raspy male voice over sheet metal on a wet, winding road. We stated as a strategic objective that everything we did for Nissan had to pass through the consumer’s “entertainment filter,” or else it would not get noticed. This meant finding truly innovative media ideas to get through to people.
Several campaigns were developed that re-introduced Nissan and attached heritage and a sense of fun to the brand. Thomas liked the work, but felt something was missing. He wanted Nissan to have a consistent icon in its advertising, like the Energizer Bunny. It had to represent the soul of Nissan.
We had already identified someone in Nissan’s past who laid the foundation for Nissan in the U.S. His name was Yutaka Katayama, known as Mr. K. He was a remarkably charismatic man.
The creatives turned Mr. K into an embodiment of the Nissan personality–a spirit–rather than treating him as a real historical figure. They developed the two-minute epic, “Dream Garage,” introducing Mr. K and showcasing Nissan’s heritage and beliefs. Other spots, including “Toys,” were about human truths about people and cars. They featured Mr. K as the source of the magic. Nontraditional media, outdoor and print were also developed.

Bob Thomas, President, CEO
Thomas Orbe, VP, New Vehicle Marketing
Thomas Eastwood, VP, Nissan Division
John Rinek, Dir., Advertising
Tom Tackes, Mgr., Segment Marketing

Lee Clow, President, Chief Creative Officer
Rob Siltanen, Creative Dir.
Tom Patty, Nissan Worldwide Account Dir.
Adam Morgan, Dir., Account Planning
Joe Feldman, Sr. Account Planner
Pam Keehn, Account Dir.
Chuck Bennett, CD, Art Dir.
Clay Williams, CD, Copywriter
Joe Hemp, Art Dir.
Monica Karo, Media Dir.