Nissan rewards Latino agency with added business

Struggling with falling sales, Nissan Division is paying attention to a growing Hispanic population. And it's paying off.

In the two years since Latino marketing communications agency Ornelas & Associates took charge of communicating to Hispanics Nissan's national message for the Frontier, Sentra and Altima, sales of those products have increased 15 percent.

In the same markets, Nissan products that were not advertised to Hispanics saw a 10 percent sales drop, said Scott Fessenden, director of marketing at Nissan North America.

Fessenden said the ads ran in 12 top Hispanic markets, including New York, Chicago and Miami.

Because of Ornelas & Associates' ability to boost sales, Nissan has expanded the responsibilities of the Dallas agency to include regional as well as national advertising to Hispanics in those markets. Also, more Nissan nameplates will be added to the agency's portfolio.

'Ornelas will take advantage of any of Nissan's brands,' Fessenden said. 'We don't want to dictate to them which brands they want to advertise.'

Dealer teams

Ornelas & Associates' duties will include regional work such as holiday promotions and year-end sales in all Hispanic areas except Los Angeles, where Acento Advertising Inc. has worked with Nissan for three years.

Ornelas & Associates will work with dealers to take Nissan Division's product message of 'bold and thoughtful' to local markets in the form of 'buy now' TV, radio and newspaper advertisements.

'Our perspective is that we do want them to talk about products and product attributes so there is a synergy with what they are doing at (a regional level) developing with national branding,' Fessenden said.

Nissan Division's unit sales for the first seven months of this year slipped to 367,352 compared with 398,353 during the same period last year.

Ornelas & Associates CEO Victor Ornelas says sales to Hispanics comprise about 10 percent to 11 percent of Nissan's total sales and estimates that 2001 Hispanic sales will be slightly above that percentage.

Higher spending

Ornelas said Nissan significantly increased ad spending with the agency, but he wouldn't give a figure.

'Clearly, by the dollars they're spending, it's a priority for (Nissan),' he said.

According to Competitive Media Reporting, Nissan spent $612 million in total measured media for 2000. But Nissan did not make Hispanic Business Magazine's annual list of top 50 Hispanic media advertisers, where the lowest spender last year disbursed $2.4 million. Five automakers made the list.

Hispanics make up 12.5 percent of the U.S. population - more than 35 million people - compared with 9 percent in 1990, according to U.S. census figures.

Fessenden said Ornelas & Associates does what Nissan can't do: customize messages to convey ideas in the local dialect, including cultural nuances.

'The regional ads will help us bridge the cultural differences,' he said. 'Ornelas' work will help with the sales.'

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