Nissan clicks online effort

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After doing virtually no online advertising, Nissan North America's Nissan Division jumped into the game this year. The company has long had a Web site and had done some e-mail efforts-but it had never focused on Web promotion.

Now, the company has had enough success in its first foray into online advertising-some first quarter 2001 sponsorships, including banner ads-to put more money into the Web in the second quarter. Said Scott Fessenden, marketing director at the division, "We had some pretty good click-through rates on the banner ads."

Nissan's most prominent second-quarter online efforts include a recently launched Xterra tie-in with Wenner Media's Rolling Stone's online "Go big or go home" giveaway of extreme vacations. The sponsorship follows a first quarter promotion in which the Xterra was the exclusive auto sponsor of Bluetorch's "The Road to Mammoth."

Also during this quarter, the Nissan Maxima is the exclusive auto sponsor of CBS Sportsline's Major League Baseball online box scores and fantasy baseball contest. Next up is a probable major online effort for the redesigned 2002-model Altima sedan, though Nissan isn't yet divulging details.

So far, the company has put the biggest push behind the college student friendly Sentra, which, in the first quarter, was the auto sponsor of AOL Time Warner's Warner Bros.' Webcast of three days of concerts from Sundance, Utah and also sponsored Rolling Stone magazine's online Grammy Awards' trip sweepstakes.

Mr. Fessenden explains Nissan's absence from the medium in the past this way: "We were hearing a lot of conflicting things about the Internet ... so we didn't want to just throw money at it." Nissan's online advertising is handled by Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day and Sapient, Los Angeles.

Mr. Fessenden declined to discuss Nissan's online ad spending, but said carmakers tend to spend 1% to 2% of their ad budgets on the Internet. Applying that formula to Nissan, the company will likely spend upwards of $5 million on its Internet budget this year.

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