Rocker Bret Michaels is all about commercial vans. No, seriously. Okay, not too seriously. The former lead singer of hair metal band Poison and star of reality show “Rock of Love” is lead man for a humorous online campaign for Nissan's Commercial Vehicles division.
The video series, filmed onsite at Nissan's Stanfield, Ariz., proving grounds, has Michaels starring in a series of videos each focusing on a specific product virtue of the automaker's vans and trucks and the testing that goes into making sure the things can stand up to various kinds of mechanical torture.
The campaign, via Santa Monica, Calif.-based TBWA\Chiat\Day, comprises six feature and one music videos, wherein Michaels belts out a romantic rock ballad where the love interest is the lineup of Nissan's commercial vans, much to the chagrin of engineers. In the vehicle-test videos Michaels offers his breezy, extemporaneous take on the vehicle tests and how it relates to aspects of his own life. In one about heat testing, he looks at the camera and talks about how, growing up in Arizona, and performing every night with pyrotechnics, he's used to the heat. "Welcome to the heat chamber," he says as he describes the torture test. In another, about brake testing, he sits in the middle of a dirt track, talking about his two daughters and how braking matters to their safety as a van roars up behind him and stops in a cloud of dust.
Erich Marx, director of interactive and digital media at Nissan's U.S. sales and marketing organization, tells Marketing Daily that Michaels was the right person for the gig because of his folksy appeal and the fact that his offbeat personality adds a bit of a twist to an otherwise boring, capability-centric category. "He's a genuinely nice guy, and he was actually the inspiration for a lot of the ideas for the vignettes. He brought a lot to it. It could have been dry, but he was into it; very engaging."
Marx says the company’s relatively new light commercial vehicle lineup needed to get more attention. "We are literally the newest player in the segment for commercial vans, and it's a mature business," he says. "We know that the dominant players have been in it for some time, and that makes us the challenger brand. So we needed to do something that breaks through. A theme for us is the 'Nissan wink.' And maybe this has a lot of wink, but I think the situation warrants it."
He says the media buy is totally digital, with ads on a targeted media list designed to reach such prospects as small-business owners, directing them to the videos at NissanToughLove.com, Nissan's commercial-van YouTube channel. He says many of the target buyers "grew up in '80s, when the 'hair' bands were big and Poison was one of the biggest. And [Michaels] is also currently with his reality series. We also wanted it to be tongue-in-cheek, and we knew he had sense of humor about himself. So we just felt he's well known to our target and doesn't take himself too seriously."