LOS ANGELES - Goodbye, Mr. K. Hello, Mr. J.
Needing a bridge between its March deal-of-the-week ads and its massive launch of new products that begins in June, Nissan Division is using Nissan Design International President Jerry Hirshberg as its advertising messenger.
No mystical old Japanese man. No perky terriers. Just Jerry and the sheet metal. 'Enjoy the Ride' has been replaced by the bolder slogan, 'Driven.'
A three-month run of TV commercials in rotation will feature Hirshberg, clearly identified as Nissan's chief designer, describing product attributes and design decisions Nissan made for its vehicles. The first ads air Monday, April 19.
The ads are split evenly between existing products and teasers for the upcoming Xterra, Maxima and Frontier Crew Cab.
The use of Hirshberg was not an easy decision, said Mike Seergy, Nissan Division general manager. Realizing the auto industry is an insular business, Seergy was worried that Hirshberg's growing status at Nissan might not carry over into the secular realm.
So Nissan ran test footage of Hirshberg past focus groups - with surprising results.
'Jerry reeks of credibility and genuineness. He's not your typical corporate executive. You can't script him,' Seergy said. 'Jerry completely drew the focus groups into the products, about what Nissan is all about.'
JERRY EXPLAINS IT ALL
Seergy feels bringing a designer's perspective into the ads will make people understand where Nissan products come from.
'No other company talks about how and why their cars are a certain way. People think cars just come out of a factory somewhere. People need to know why a car is so special that they should buy it. And Jerry explains all that,' Seergy said.
The hope is that the Hirshberg ads will bring a new enthusiasm about Nissan to consumers, who have been barraged by pricing ads from Nissan this year and whimsical but muddled messages from the Mr. K brand campaign before that.
Having Hirshberg deflect attention to Nissan products, and away from price, will bring a natural link to the launch ads that start in late June.
JUST SHORT OF ARROGANCE
The launch ads will have a confident tone, 'hopefully just short of arrogance,' Seergy said.
The initial launch ads will begin with Hirshberg talking but quickly shift to product-only spots.
Hirshberg will reappear later in the year for the Altima face-lift and Sentra redesign, Seergy said.
Another concern for Seergy was keeping the message the same in the national, regional and dealer advertising.
'National is 'Buy Nissan,' regional is 'Buy Nissan now,' and local is 'Buy Nissan here,' ' Seergy said.'But you're not going to be hearing about any cash-back deals.'