Nissan plays with fire

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nissan north america is taking guerrilla marketing to a new level in positioning its Maxima as a "hot" car.

Its wild postings, in six New York and Los Angeles locations, appear singed. The car is positioned on the street in a movie-set-like display where street furniture around it-lamp posts, trash baskets, and parking meters-appears to have melted. Heat and fog machines give the setting an authentic feel.

Fred Suckow, director, Nissan marketing, said the effort brings to life the theme Maxima has been using since last spring in its "Touch" campaign. In TV ads, passersby who touch a Maxima feel its "hotness," such as in the case of a woman who slips on the ice and goes from winter cool to summer heat. "The street scene art ties it all together," he said.

The buzz around the displays, which began hitting select street corners last week, has already traveled quickly beyond the sites themselves, said Christopher Davis, executive creative director at True Agency, the shop handling the effort. True is an independent urban/African American shop affiliated with Nissan's main agency, Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day.

sensitive issues

"There's no reason the street itself can't be a billboard," said Mr. Davis.

The scorched look, however, might not exactly win favor of urban neighbors used to real-life blight, or consumers familiar with TV news reports of Iraq car bomb scenes. Mr. Suckow said the company "wanted to be sensitive to those issues" and noted several elements of the installation, such as the shiny new vehicle, the billboards and other items would easily allow those viewing it to "understand the site." Nissan also has made representatives at its consumer affairs call center aware of the effort.

Nissan previously has used theatrical devices to market its cars. Last year, at the premiere of "The Matrix Reloaded," a woman speaking from the screen interacted with actors placed in the audience. The performers acted as if they were responding to her question of "Who are you?" with phrases such as "A chill and a group of freak outs."

Earlier this year, Nissan used outdoor to push its first full-sized SUV, the Armada. The vehicle was placed in a glass case with the words "Break Glass in Case of Adventure" and passersby were provided with a hammer with which to attempt to break the glass. The case made a nine-city tour starting at New York's Times Square.

"It's harder and harder to reach people," said Mr. Sucow.

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