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[monterey, calif.] Although the Maxima has been its standard bearer against V-6 versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, Nissan North America will market the redesigned 2000 Maxima as "a cut above" its rivals.

To spread the word, Nissan will spend $100 million this year in a massive ad blitz for Maxima, company executives said at the media preview here. The car is scheduled to go on sale in early June.

Although much of the money will be spent on network and spot TV, Nissan also will branch out with a strong direct-mail, outdoor, print and Internet presence. TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., will handle the creative.


The new Maxima is longer, wider, taller, faster and roomier inside than its predecessor, all of which Nissan hopes will distance it further from the competition.

"We wanted to improve its Maxima-ness, to improve its V-6 engine and its handling, to return it to being a four-door sports car," said Shinjiro Yukawa, product planning director for the Nissan Motor Co. technical center in Japan.

The Maxima advertising will be product-oriented. Nissan wants to communicate the new features and benefits of the Maxima, said Jack Collins, director of product strategy for Nissan North America.

"We will not let Maxima fall into the brand campaign trap," said Mr. Collins, referring to the whimsical, ill-fated Mr. K ads that failed to build showroom traffic. "The dog has been buried."

The last is a reference to the dog that appeared with the actor portraying Mr. K in earlier ads.


"Most of these cars in the segment have the same features. It's all about how we describe those features so that they resonate with the customer," he said.

The target buyer is 40 years old (down from 44); 63% are male, with a household income of about $80,000; married but without a nest of children.

Actually, Maxima's demographic curve is bi-modal, with a chunk of owners in the double-income, no-kids, 30-to-35 age bracket and another chunk in the 45-to-49-year-old range, Mr. Collins said.

He added that the near-luxury market, which includes such new entries as the Acura 3.2TL, has been dropping down to the same price levels as top-trim Maximas, which makes for even greater competition. That means spreading the message is paramount.


Still, not all the money will be spent on flashy network TV programs. About 250,000 current Maxima owners will receive a direct-mail brochure in April. Outdoor advertising and lifestyle magazines will get heavy play. When the car was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show, Nissan opened a teaser Web site ( that linked from its main corporate site.

Nissan also is continuing heavy promotion through golf tournaments and magazines. Maxima displays will tie in with Taylor Made Golf Co. golf club demo days.

Interestingly, both the Maxima and the Taylor Made Bubble Burner clubs were designed by Nissan Design International in La Jolla, Calif.

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