Altima alters dose

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Nissan's 2002 Altima sedan is getting a big coming-out party.

Nissan North America is spending an estimated $8 million on a two-month teaser campaign leading to Nissan Division's biggest model ad push of the year in October. The multimedia effort started Aug. 1 and runs through September.

The redone midsize sedan is crucial for Nissan, which has projected annual sales of 190,000 units. The 2002 Altima is the first all-new car from the marketer since France's Renault took a controlling interest in Nissan's Japanese parent in 1999. Peter Goodwin, advertising director at Nissan, said the car is "the first example of the new Nissan in terms of capturing the shape, design and performance."

Nissan has been working on a new global brand positioning for more than a year under Carlos Ghosn, the Renault executive who is CEO of Japan's Nissan Motor Corp. Mr. Ghosn said at Altima's debut in April's New York auto show that the positioning will become obvious as new models arrive.

The Altima's prelaunch ad theme from Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., is "The cure is coming." The executions use a prescription label to deliver messages that the car is different in styling and performance from Altima's main competitors, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Toyota Motor Sales USA launches its redone Camry in September.

The agency created banner ads for automotive Web sites, including,,, and One says: "May impair your ability to drive other vehicles." A trio of :15 teaser commercials will appear on those sites.

One print headline says, "Caution. May cause excitability." The message on the attached business reply cards is, "Yes. I want relief from the tedium of my current car."

Out-of-home ads-billboards and coffee-sleeve ads-were starting to break last week in the first of 10 major markets. The agency developed eight executions that will appear on several million cup wraps of small coffee chains, at airport java outlets and independent chains.

Direct mail will reach more than 500,000 current Nissan owners and customers of Nissan's finance unit. In addition, more than 50,000 handraisers from auto shows earlier this year and Nissan's Web site are getting a fulfillment package by mail.

The first Altima bowed in 1992 under the tag "affordable luxury," now used by Daewoo Motor America's Leganza sedan. It was a hit, reaching annual peak sales of 163,090 in 1994, according to Automotive News. The second generation Altima, which arrived in 1997 as a 1998 model, was a flop until Nissan changed advertising and offered more incentives. Nissan sold 153,525 Alimas in 2000 and 86,527 in the first seven months of 2001.

The second-generation Altima was too small a midsize car for the U.S. market to compete against the Camry and Accord, said Jim Hall, VP at consultancy AutoPacific. He predicted the bigger '02 model would be a success. "But the degree of that success depends on pricing and merchandising." Mr. Hall predicted Nissan will "try to find some clear air around the Camry" to position Altima.

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