Nissan Wants To Drive Microsoft Experiences

Nissan has a new deal with Microsoft that will give it a broad presence across all of the company's properties, first dibs on Microsoft's Web-based and emerging digital platforms, and a significant competitive twist--access to the Microsoft brain trust to develop unique marketing programs.

The deal was announced yesterday between Nissan and Microsoft's Digital Advertising Solutions group. It involves programs on PDAs, MSN, Windows Live, Live Search, Xbox and Windows Mobile.

The goal, said Steve Kerho, Nissan director of media and interactive marketing, is to flood target consumers' "communication eco-systems" with the Nissan brand.

Some forthcoming products of the alliance are: inclusion of Nissan and Infiniti dealerships in Windows Live local maps, Nissan's sponsorship of an Xbox 360 console game "Forza Motorsport 2," a global tournament on Xbox Live, and an Infiniti and MSN.com-branded magazine and blog called "Open for Design."

Nissan will participate in pilot advertising programs within Windows Mobile and Office Live. In addition, it will use Microsoft adCenter behavioral targeting tools for search marketing.

According to Microsoft, the MSN network reaches some 465 million consumers worldwide each month, with "millions more" tapping into Windows Live, Xbox Live and Office Online.

"It really started with the realization that big portals are really online networks," said Kerho. He said the new deal differs substantially from what had until now been a project-based relationship with Microsoft and its properties. "The breadth of it is different, and the fact that it is all integrated around one particular strategy," he said.

"Media is very fragmented right now," Kerho added. "Consumers are in control of when, where and how they consume media. We sat together with MSN, and carved up the whole day: how and when and where and what does [the target consumer's] day look like? We actually have the opportunity now to sit down with developers and brainstorm on what content will be engaging, where and when."

Kerho added that the expanded relationship with Microsoft reflects an effort to have more flexibility in choosing "push" and "pull" media based on needs of specific vehicles, and which part of the purchase funnel for a given vehicle model needs bolstering.

"Pull has a high level of engagement, but it doesn't scale that well. Depending on media property, and audiences, they have programs that scale very well for us," Kerho said.

For example, the redesigned Altima sedan, bowing early next year, he said, will benefit from awareness-building elements on the MSN portals, Messenger and Hotmail. Meanwhile, lower purchase-funnel activities will occur on Windows Live, and MSN Live Local, as local-dealer and MSN mapping technology drives the dealer locator within Nissan's own consumer Web site.

While Kerho said Nissan isn't abandoning traditional media, Nissan marketing chief Jan Thompson reportedly said at an Automotive News marketing seminar last summer that TV would get less media dollars because Nissan has become so good at analyzing ROI on digital media. Nissan, which spent over a billion dollars in measured media last year between its two auto brands, has also created similar strategic relationships with Yahoo and Google.

"Internally, we are talking about marketing 2.0. What's unique is the breadth and depth of this," said Kerho, who did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

Microsoft set up its Digital Advertising Solutions group to simplify the buying process for advertisers who want to connect with their target audience across various digital touch points. "It is a response to one of advertisers' key pain points," a spokesperson said.

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