Nissan goes episodic with 24-minute spot

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looking beyond the 30-second spot, Nissan Europe has found ... the 24-minute spot.

In a move that's sure to catch the eye of U.S. advertisers seeking clutter-busting buys, Nissan is running an epic commercial on a U.K. cable and satellite channel as a series of 24 one-minute weekly episodes divided into eight parts.

The aim is to lure younger viewers and convince them that Nissan is cool. "We seek to challenge convention," said Andy Connell, Nissan's marketing-communications manager. "It will take a couple of weeks for people to grasp what's going on, but it is intriguing and will stick in the mind. It will give us more stand-out than conventional advertising."

The Japanese automaker is paying $3 million to sponsor three Sunday-night dramas-U.S. imports "24" and "Nip/Tuck" and a local soccer soap opera called "Dream Team"-that compose a three-hour programming block on News Corp.'s Sky One cable and satellite channel.

Nissan's agency, Omnicom Group's TBWA/London, enhanced the sponsorship by creating an original drama in the shape of the 24-minute short film that could run as a serial adventure.

division

Each one-minute Nissan episode is divided into eight spots, starting with a 15-second burst that leads into the TV program, followed by six spots lasting five seconds each. The hour ends with the last 15-second spot. The same one-minute episode runs three times each Sunday, once each hour for three hours.

The agency produced a suspense-driven road movie, shot in Nevada and Arizona. It revolves around one unnamed character and features five new models that Nissan is launching in the U.K. during the first half of 2005.

In the beginning, the man sits in his car, reads a letter and becomes emotional. He takes loads of money out of the bank and buys a car for cash. The installments are still being edited, but he will take to the road, lose the car, get a lift, find another car, meet a girl and even steal a car.

"We developed the media idea as part of the company-wide `Shift' [marketing] strategy," said Ben Brown, account director and brand planner at Omnicom Group's MGM OMD.

First U.K. attempt

The deal marks Nissan's first real attempt at brand-building in the U.K., where the automaker holds a 3.5% market share and doesn't have a strong image besides being known for inexpensive small cars.

Although Sky One's Sunday-evening audience is only about half a million households, Nissan is targeting the "early adopters" in digital households who watch the channel.

The spots that top and tail each hour-long program and the five-second spots in between are so brief that it would be hard for viewers to skip them. "You can't ad-avoid," Mr. Brown said. "You get the benefit of attentiveness and the feeling of exclusivity."

Nissan is launching four cars into the U.K. within the next six months: the Murano, Pathfinder SUV, Navarra and 350Z roadster. "It is a challenge for a car manufacturer to present four new models in quick succession," Mr. Connell said. "This is the ideal way to get the message across."

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