Nissan's New U.S. Sales Boss Rips the Brand's Advertising

Christian Meunier Demands Fresh Approach From Omnicom's Nissan United

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Christian Meunier, Senior Vice President, Nissan Sales & Marketing and Operations
Christian Meunier, Senior Vice President, Nissan Sales & Marketing and Operations Credit: Nissan

Nissan's new U.S. sales boss is unhappy with the brand's advertising message and plans to change it.

How unhappy?

The week after taking charge of U.S. sales and marketing in January, Christian Meunier and his staff put Nissan's U.S. agencies in a room together and told them to come up with better advertising. Pronto.

Nissan's advertising is handled by a dedicated Omnicom unit known as Nissan United that includes TBWA, OMD and other Omnicom agencies.

After a few painful weeks of discomfort and rejections, Mr. Meunier says Nissan has arrived at a new U.S. marketing platform that will go live in May.

"I was really upset with the agency in the beginning," Mr. Meunier told Automotive News during the New York auto show. "I challenged them. I locked them in a room for a week in New York, and came back after a week and it was still shit.

"I came back after two weeks and it was still shit," he said. "I said, 'You guys better deliver something. You'd better come to Nashville next week with a plan that works.' And they came back with a very good plan."

Mr. Meunier said the automaker has long suffered from an unclear brand image. In his first meeting after taking his job, Mr. Meunier said he told the agencies, "Guys, I'm sorry to say it but we've spent billions of dollars on advertising in the past few years ... and our brand is very vague. People don't really know what Nissan is about. And that's a problem."

Nissan is testing the new advertising strategy on consumers, and running it past dealers for approval, he said.

He declined to reveal specific changes, but said the Sentra, Altima and Rogue will be featured in one of the new ads and the Maxima, Pathfinder and Murano will be showcased in another.

He said the new advertising will start at the Tier 2 dealer level. National brand advertising will follow.

In a statement to Ad Age, Nissan United President Jon Castle said, "As Christian said, we have a very good plan in place going forward in the U.S. It is aligned and approved at the very highest levels in both Nashville and Japan. Furthermore, the Nissan United agency model is not changing; we are continuing to evolve to stay ahead in an ever-changing industry."

Mr. Meunier, who has been in Nissan management since 2002, assumed the U.S. sales leadership post after running Nissan Canada. He continues as chairman of Nissan Canada.

Lindsay Chappell is a reporter for Automotive News.

Ad Age's Maureen Morrison contributed to this story.

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