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New 'Shift' Theme Goes for High Emotion Ads

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DETROIT ( -- Nissan North America is shifting advertising gears with a new Nissan brand campaign
The new Nissan TV spots focus on people shifting their lives and activities. In one, a double-amputee female rock climber is shown struggling upward. A text line says "Shift Obstacles."
about its revitalized product line and its comeback from near bankruptcy a few years ago. The emotionally charged work introduces "Shift" as the new umbrella tagline.

No longer 'driven'
Breaking Sept. 3 on national broadcast and cable TV networks, the new theme replaces Nissan's "Driven" tagline, which was introduced in summer 1998. "Shift" is a version of Nissan's global tag "Shift the Future," which was first used in Japan and later in Europe as "Shift Expectations."

The U.S. work combines "Shift" with a slew of other words that change with the mood of scenes in the spots from Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif. The opening scene in one shows someone jumping off a steep snowy cliff, as the word "fear" appears on screen after "shift." The only narration in all four national TV brand commercials is the same: "Shift can change a person, a life, the world, or it can simply change the way you move through it."

Steve Wilhite, vice president of marketing for Nissan and Infiniti brands, said that when he heard that line from TBWA in the only campaign it presented, "I was blown away by it. It's one of the most powerful notions I've ever encountered."

The new ad tagline and theme will be used in all

The new Nissan Z is a star of the new campaign.
communications, including upcoming print ads, outdoor, brochures, Internet and point-of-purchase materials.

Black & white stills
The breaking brand campaign will run simultaneously with TBWA's launch ads for the 2003 350Z sports car, which was last sold in 1996. In an unusual move in sport car advertising, the Z is shown only in still shots. The simple black-and-white ads have no voice-over. One spot shows Z vanity plates on older models and ends with a shot of the rear of a 2003 model without a plate. "It's deja vu all over again" appears on-screen. Another shows a montage of still shots of tough-looking policemen before the words "Let's be careful out there" appear.

Mr. Wilhite said Z's styling is "so arresting and so stunning" it doesn't need to be shown zooming around a racetrack or winding road.

The new look for "Shift" ads will expand to all models, including Maxima sedan ads due in early fall. The brand commercials show shots of various Nissans at the end: the all-new Murano sport utility vehicle, Altima sedan and Xterra SUV. Murano goes on sale in December.

Declined to discuss spending
Mr. Wilhite declined to discuss ad spending, saying only it's up in the current fiscal year, ending next March, but the percentage jump isn't as high as Nissan's sales volume.

Nissan spent $196 million in measured media from January through May 2002, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. The brand's sales rose by 6% in the first seven months of 2002 to 389,379 units, according to Ad Age sibling Automotive News.

Japan's Nissan Motor Co. was unprofitable and nearly bankrupt by the late 1990s. Nissan's Japan-designed models weren't selling well in the U.S. France's Renault AG acquired a controlling share in 1999. Renault's Carlos Ghosn, put in charge of Nissan, embarked on a revilaitzation plan led by exciting new products or more stylish versions of existing nameplates. Now president-CEO of Nissan Motor, he's credited with its turnaround and return to profitability.

Nissan reported global net income of $2.79 billion on sales of $49 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31. Earlier this year Mr. Ghosn kicked off a new three-year program, dubbed Nissan 180, to raise the automaker's business performance even higher. His goal: to add 1 million units in global sales by the end of the fiscal year 2004, with some 400,000 of those in the U.S.

'Complete revival'
"I don't see anything that's going to stop them," said George Peterson, president of consultancy AutoPacific. "The new products they've announced really represent a complete renewal of their product line. New products, if done well, are the fastest way you can really rejuvenate your image."

He said Nissan's Altima mid-size sedan won AutoPacific's 2002 mid-size car satisfaction, based on a survey of 34,000 new vehicle owners. Altima owners rated their cars higher than owners of Toyota Motor Sales USA's Camry or American Honda Motor Co.'s Accord.

Nissan's last brand campaign was its controversial "Enjoy the Ride" effort that started in 1996 when it had no new models and ran into 1998. Although the creative community widely praised the executions, they didn't help Nissan increase sales. Nissan dealers complained the ads didn't focus on the vehicles.

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