Luxury carmaker Infiniti has launched a multiplatform partnership with American Express Publishing and Time Inc. that gives the Franklin, Tenn.-based automaker top billing in a Food & Wine magazine series, "Supercharge Your Senses," as well as a series of epicurean foodie happenings at top-shelf restaurants and hotels, featuring top chefs.
Automaker deals with publishers that include event activation are not new, but this is a first with American Express and Time, Inc. for Infiniti, per Kathy Roznowski, senior media manager at Infiniti. "We have done in-book and online, but this gives us an opportunity to leverage great epicurean events."
The partnership, with a "sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell" theme, launches in May print issues and this week on the Web. There are also mobile elements and events. Central to the program are food and culture recommendations around the country, cooking secrets from assorted chefs and wine-tasting lessons.
Central to Infiniti's presence in print are three gatefold features in the May, August and December issues of Food & Wine and in select copies of other American Express Publishing and Time Inc. titles like Essence, InStyle, Golf, Real Simple and Travel and Leisure. Infiniti will be the sole advertiser within these editorial sections.
The first part of the three in-magazine sections will be devoted to travel with featurettes on 25 food and culture experiences to "see, hear, and taste" in Oakland, Calif., Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Miami and New York. The August section will look at chef innovation and the last will focus on wine.
A microsite at FoodandWine.com, also sponsored only by Infiniti, will include a weekly video series featuring F&W wine editor Ray Isle, among other things. An iPhone application, "F&W's Best of," locates coffee bars, dessert shops and cocktail bars in each region of the United States.
Jim DeTrude, senior manager of Infiniti marketing, says that the launch event last week -- "F&W Best New Chefs" at Four Seasons New York -- gave Infiniti a chance to show off its new QX crossover, first unveiled at the New York Auto show earlier this spring, and the M sedan, which Infiniti somehow had installed inside the hotel.
"Sensory Dinner Series" will be in key markets and will feature Infiniti model launches in restaurants in Los Angeles, Houston, and Miami in June, and Chicago and Atlanta in July. "We are still working on restaurants and dates for the five additional exclusive dinner experiences but they will showcase the all-new M for three of them, and the QX for the last two," says DeTrude. He says the events will each bring in around 100 invited guests.
Roznowski says invitees are not culled from the lists of current Infiniti owners, but are subscribers to American Express publications that Infiniti deemed ideal potential conquests. "We are working with American Express to use some of their customers from magazines like Food & Wine, Travel and Leisure, or Golf."
She adds that invitees will not -- and ideally should not -- be Infiniti owners. "It's less about loyalty, more about introduction of Infiniti to people who may know who we are but right now are not putting us on their lists."
The partnership comes from a meeting several months ago at Nissan headquarters in Tennessee, says DeTrude. "We went to all print, digital partners primarily and we pulled them together and said, 'These are our objectives for the upcoming business year, these are products we are launching and the direction we are taking with "Inspired Performance" [Infiniti's theme line] and the creative direction.' We said, 'Come back to us with best ideas on how to incorporate your properties with our launch efforts.' We reached out to all partners."
DeTrude says the ad elements tied to the "Supercharge your Senses" sections of the magazines extend Infiniti's overall brand campaigns that use Japanese shodo calligraphy as a metaphor for creative vehicle design. It's not just specific to a model but also to features, he says.
For the sections, Infiniti is focusing on Active Noise Control, the "Forest Air" air conditioning system, an option in the new M sedan; and interior materials like interior-panel wood that has been impregnated with silver powder.
"This work is meant to be contextually relevant to the audience: it says we are building a luxury car one sense at a time; so we took existing M work and tried to make it relevant, and very sense-oriented," DeTrude says.