Nissan serenades buyers with CDs

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Nissan North America is thinking young.

To drive down the average age of its Sentra model owners-now 49 years old-the car marketer is introducing a branded music compact disc of artists that would appeal to the model's 25- to 34-year-old target. Roughly 100,000 of the CDs were produced.

Nissan hired KBA Marketing Group, Chicago, which, for the past couple of months, has been handing out the CDs at spots such as coffee shops and hip music events in 11 major markets. When popped into a PC, the CD also offers a Sentra brochure.

GOOD TIME

With the effort, Nissan joins a host of other car makers seeking younger buyers. General Motors Corp.'s' Oldsmobile Division has done several music CD promotions in the past year for the Alero. That coupe also targets twenty-and thirtysomethings and currently has a median owner age of 44.

Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Sales USA, meanwhile, are in the midst of major campaigns for the Ford Focus and Toyota Echo targeted to echo boomers, the children of the baby boomers. Their strategy is to attract that demographic and keep them loyal to their brands.

Nissan's CD also is available if prospects respond to a teaser ad that broke a month ago in four targeted magazines. That ad will run through March, said Mitch Davis, model line manager for the car at Nissan.

TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., created the effort. The simple copy reads, "For a good time" and directs readers to call a toll-free number or mail a business reply card. There's no clue to the marketer's identity; callers are directed to nissandriven.com.

"We're more aggressive now with the Web," Mr. Davis said. In the past, each product had its own microsite. Now Nissan has just one and is trying to direct more traffic there.

Nissan already has collected the names of more than 30,000 Sentra prospects via the promotion and will have distributed 60,000 CDs by April 1.

New Sentra advertising breaks April 3 with a new TV spot featuring Nissan's chief designer, Jerry Hirshberg. More product-focused spots sans Mr. Hirshberg will arrive April 10. A new TV spot for the Pathfinder sport utility arrives first, in March.

Mr. Davis said Sentra's ad budget will allocate "a lot more than we ever had on Sentra." The car will get more ad dollars than the new Xterra sport utility but less than the Maxima sedan-the two key vehicles Nissan launched last year. He declined to offer specifics.

During the first nine months of 1999, Nissan Division spent $305 million in measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The Maxima got $77.6 million of the total and Xterra got $51 million. Sentra received $1.9 million in media backing, with the remainder spread among other models.

LAST DEBUT IN 1995

The last Sentra model debuted in 1995 and was designed in Japan. In recent years, "we were focusing on other products while Sentra got old," Mr. Davis admitted. The new model was jointly designed in California and Japan with more sensitivity to the U.S. market.

Nissan wants to sell some 115,000 Sentras this year vs. 63,134 in 1999.

The CD promotion has been such a success, Nissan will repeat the effort with this fall's launch of the redesigned Frontier pickup, said Scott Fessenden, marketing director of Nissan division. The average age of Frontier buyers is 49, but Nissan wants to lower that to 39.

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