$45 mil campaign: Nissan attempts to sex up Quest

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Diane Pompei cringed when a co-worker called her Toyota minivan "a mom-mobile." But what really changed the then-single mom's mind about her next vehicle was looking over at a stoplight from her minivan and seeing a cute guy in the next lane: "The image he saw was that I was married and hauling my kids around." Soon after, the Northern Michigan Coldwell Banker associate broker bought a Ford Explorer sport utility because "the image was way cooler."

Faced with numerous such tales, the once-hot minivan is trying to kick its soccer-mom image, beginning with national TV spots for Nissan's redone Quest the week of Aug. 11. The effort, part of an estimated $45 million integrated-media blitz, adds some sex to the drive, positioning the minivan as stylish and not just for moms, but for hot mamas. The theme: Moms have changed, and so has the minivan. Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., is the agency.

One print spread carries the headline "Passion built it. Passion will fill it up." The copy continues: "What if we made a minivan that changed the way people think about minivans?" The passion theme for the Quest is extended to Nissan's Web site with the headline "Put Passion in Motion."

The TV executions attempt to portray the Quest as "desirable and cool," according to an executive who asked not to be named.

Nissan took a similar route when it launched its redone Altima two years ago. Ads called the midsize Altima the "cure for the common car," and touted its performance and styling and poked fun without naming names at segment leaders Toyota's Camry and Honda's Accord.

Nissan North America said it wants to sell 75,000-plus Quests annually vs. some 12,000 of the old model in 2002.

style update

To do so, the carmaker is also updating the styling of its minivan. Wes Brown, an analyst with consultancy Iceology, said the old Quest model, built in a venture with Ford Motor Co., wasn't competitive. He said the styling is now "quite aggressive" for the segment and is sporty looking.

Chrysler Group, which popularized minivans in the 1980s, is the market leader in the segment. But Toyota Motor Sales USA's Toyota Sienna and American Honda Motor Co.'s Honda Odyssey have nibbled at Chrysler's share.

Nissan's total vehicle sales were off 4% to 321,072 units in the first half of 2003 vs. a year ago. But several Nissan dealers said the automaker has had virtually no incentives because most of its models are totally new or redone.

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