How Omnicom Is Shaking Up Its Nissan Account

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Credit: Nissan via Nissan USA via YouTube
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Omnicom Group is shifting the geographic center of its Nissan account in the U.S. to the East Coast from Los Angeles, where TBWAChiatDay had been servicing the automaker since it won the creative account in 1987.

The move will lead to "a general headcount reduction in L.A., with an increase in other locations and disciplines," according to a TBWA memo. The goal is to get agency resources closer to Nissan North America's headquarters near Nashville, Tenn. Nissan moved to Tennessee from Southern California in 2006.

The Omnicom move is part of a larger, ongoing push by Nissan North America's Marketing VP Jeremy Tucker to get better collaboration among the agency personnel that make up Omnicom's dedicated unit, known globally as Nissan United.

The U.S. Nissan team includes TBWAChiatDay, Zimmerman Advertising, OMD and other Omnicom agencies. The group already has personnel in Nashville, as well as New York and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Zimmerman is based. But the latest move is meant to "align the resources from our agency partners from Omnicom closer to me and my team -- it's access, it's speed, it's nimbleness," Mr. Tucker said in an interview.

In the internal agency memo, TBW Worldwide CEO Troy Ruhanen said: "As we continue to keep pace with all of our clients' needs and geographic demands, we need to offer flexibility within our network in order to serve their needs. This entails not only relocating and redistributing talent but also a more open way to sharing our resources across offices."

The move includes some personnel changes. Omnicom has hired Joe Garcia from 72andSunny in a newly created role to lead Omnicom's U.S. Nissan business, Mr Tucker said. His title is senior VP-Omnicom. "He will join the Nissan agency family as our key strategic marketing adviser and Omnicom agency collaboration leader. He will start this Monday and will be based in Nashville," Nissan said in an emailed statement.

"He's basically going to be my lead integrator across all of my Omnicom agencies working directly with me here in Nashville," Mr. Tucker said. Andrew Dauska, TBWAChiatDay's managing director on the Nissan account since late 2015, is no longer on the account, Mr. Tucker confirmed."TBWA and Omnicom are exploring new opportunities for him within the network," said an agency spokeswoman.

Jon Castle continues to lead Omnicom's global Nissan United unit.

Nissan began shaking up its Omnicom relationship roughly a year ago after the automaker became dissatisfied with the holding company's work on the account.

In a March 2016 interview with Automotive News, Nissan's newly installed U.S. sales boss Christian Meunier critiqued the Nissan brand as "vague" despite billions of dollars spent on ads in recent years. In the interview he described how he pushed for new ideas by locking agency personnel "in a room for a week in New York, and came back after a week and it was still shit. … I came back after two weeks and it was still shit." He said he told them that "'You guys better deliver something. You'd better come to Nashville next week with a plan that works.' And they came back with a very good plan."

For his part, Mr. Tucker has pushed for greater collaboration between Zimmerman -- which had historically handled dealer-focused "tier two" advertising -- and TBWA.

"We have to be more collaborative. Those old agency models and roles do not matter to me," he said. Good ideas can come from anywhere, he added, noting that "there is no more delineation any more between tier two and tier one [agencies]."

He has also gotten OMD -- which handles media -- involved earlier in the process. "The media team is now part of the joint-strategic planning process with creative," he said, in a move to prevent media planning from being an afterthought.

Mr. Tucker pointed to the automaker's recent successful activation of its Star Wars marketing partnership as proof that the new approach is working. The campaign plugged Nissan's Rogue SUV by tying into the film "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." Mr. Tucker called it the "largest most integrated program we have ever done."

Nissan dealers have praised the campaign, according to a story published late last year in Automotive News.

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