Nissan Launches Pathfinder Effort, Preps Sentra Push

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Nissan is touting the new Pathfinder SUV and Sentra sedan with a new campaign that continues Nissan's "Wouldn't it be Cool" campaign that the automaker used as a creative platform for the 2013 Altima launch earlier this year. In the “Wouldn’t it be Cool” ads, the vehicles, in a sterile white room, suddenly explode into dynamic fragments and come back together in a way that offers a futuristic “Gray's Anatomy”-type dissection of vehicle features and technology.  

The campaigns for the two vehicles include other, more focused spots. Pathfinder gets three additional TV spots that tout vehicle features and capability. A 60-second ad, "Follow Me," has a family in the vehicle out in the mountains, crossing snow. They ask a local for directions to a glacier and take off chasing the guy in his truck. As the terrain gets harsher, he yells, “Follow me” and switches to a snowmobile, and then a dog sled. They reach the mountaintop and the guy dons a parasail leaping off the mountain. Another touts the vehicle's ability to offer a bird's-eye view of the car and objects immediately surrounding it. The ad has the Pathfinder using the technology to park. Birds fly around the vehicle as it does so.   

Creative for the Sentra also launches with a "Wouldn't it be Cool" spot voiced by Robert Downey, Jr., plus another ad that plays on the idea that the Sentra may be a smaller mid-sized car, but it has a premium upwardly mobile zeitgeist. The ad features a salary-man in accounts who ends up giving the CEO and other executives a lift to a C-suite meeting in his Sentra. In the ad, which touts interior room and the 34-mpg combined rating of the vehicle, the guy's title gets better and better as he picks up each executive who looks around the interior and just assumes the guy is important. By the end, they are inviting him to attend the meeting.  

Jon Brancheau, VP marketing at Nissan North America, says the continuation of "Wouldn't it be Cool" to launch the Sentra and Pathfinder makes sense because the company has such a tight launch schedule (the lineup will be 75% new by next year, 5 vehicles in 15 months) and can get efficiencies through creative consistency. "We had [TBWA\Chiat\Day] concept all the ideas at the same to make sure they fit in order to ensure all work is consistent. Because the launches are so close together there really was a unique opportunity to do this. Typically, you have six to nine months between launches, but we had Altima in July, and Pathfinder and Sentra in October and November.” 

And, he adds, research has shown that the campaign resonates. "We have landed on a formula that is really relevant," he says, adding that the company measures ads with Ace Metrics, "which tells us about watchability and what tends to wear out, so we can gauge effectiveness." The metrics also give a sense of whether consumers see Nissan as an innovative brand. "So we know consumers are likely to respond to the spots before we go to market."

Nissan's cross-media optimization study, which the automaker does after a campaign is in market for several months, analyzes the entire media mix by looking at peoples' perception of the Nissan brand. In this case the study uses a control group of people who have not seen the "Wouldn't it be Cool" campaign versus those who have acknowledged that they are aware and familiar with it. Brancheau says people who have seen it are dramatically more likely to a have higher opinion of Nissan than those who have not. "For in-market consumers, those who intend to visit a dealer of any brand, we saw a 15% lift in consideration among those who have seen the campaign versus those who haven't," he says.

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