John Rinek

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With media accountability as the watchword, John Rinek is a prime operative.

Nissan North America four years ago decided it needed someone to oversee media strategies and how its growing advertising budget was spent. Well ahead of its auto competition, Nissan tapped Mr. Rinek as its first director of media and agency management. Mr. Rinek says he wants to be at the forefront of big changes in media.

His role grew in importance this spring after Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Japanese parent Nissan Motor Co., created a more global organization

that strengthened North American ties to Tokyo to share best practices. Mr. Rinek is now a key liaison with Nissan Motors' global marketing unit in Tokyo.

Nissan became a pioneer in the U.S. auto industry early this year by hiring Media Performance Monitor America as its media auditor for both Nissan's vehicle brands. Nissan spent $436 million through May 2004 and nearly $1 billion in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

One of Mr. Rinek's prime responsibilities is to interface with MPMA and lead the charge for more bang for Nissan's bucks. He's one of the few at the automaker with responsibilities for both Nissan and Infiniti vehicle divisions. His job isn't just about cutting costs, but ensuring the two brands have solid media strategies, effectiveness, reach and measurement.

He says the automaker has already improved targeting by shifting buys in the past year. It's added more cable TV and cut back buys on the broadcast networks.

"Both Nissan and Infiniti are big believers in multimedia [and it's] working together to change people's purchase intentions," says the Connecticut-born, California-raised exec.

Consumer purchase intentions for the automaker's products have risen by more than 50% since 2001, and he says that will reach 80% when Nissan's fiscal year ends in March.

The automaker's resurgence is due to 13 all-new and redone Nissan and Infiniti models launched since 2002 that are more stylish and more competitive than previous vehicles. Mr. Rinek, who has four more launches this fiscal year, praised creative from Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., and called sibling OMD, New York, "first-rate."

Mr. Rinek sets goals every year to improve media productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. "There's no complacency," he says. "The bar keeps getting higher and higher. It's part of our culture."

The automaker says its U.S. vehicle sales rose by 25.7% to 566,082 units through July vs. a year ago. Mr. Rinek says incentives on both brands are below the industry average. Auto information site reports Nissan Division's incentives were $1,718 per vehicle in July 2004, Infiniti's were $1,273, while the industry average stood at $2,885.

Mr. Rinek says he "studied the big questions of life" getting his undergraduate degree in religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While getting his MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles, he got his first agency job.

Monica Karo, managing director of OMD West, Los Angeles, on Nissan's account, says the biggest change since Mr.Rinek assumed the new job is pushing the media shop for measurability and strategies that will put Nissan ahead of the pack.

Mr. Rinek says he believes the marketer's ads have already started to outperform competitors on effectiveness. "In media, we are always on the lookout for better, smarter ways of doing things," he says. He credited OMD with getting "franchise positions" in various media, such as Infiniti's ongoing ads tied to the topics of Investor Business Journal's "Leaders & Success" column.

"We want to be big, bold and dominant," he says.

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