As Nissan seeks a bigger foothold in the sizzling pickup truck market, the Japanese automaker is making an unusual call-out to more dominant U.S. brands. But whether or not the first TV ad for the all-new Titan XD comes off as a tribute to Chevy, Ford and Dodge -- or a backhanded compliment -- will be left to viewers to decide.
The campaign, created out of TBWA/Chiat/Day, broke Monday night during the College Football Playoff National Championship game on ESPN. Directed by Mark Molloy via Smuggler, the 90-second ad, called "Shoulders of Giants," begins with an emotional tone, showing children idolizing parents, firefighters, astronauts and athletes. Then, the kicker: "To those who go before us -- Chevy, Ford, Dodge. Thank you. We see the way forward."
At first glance the ad might appear to be taking a subtle shot at the competition. After all, the Chevy, Ford and Dodge trucks shown are all old and a bit dusty. Meanwhile, Nissan's Titan XD appears at the end of the ad bright and shiny, barreling out of a garage into a scenic mountain range.
But Nissan executives said the ad is meant to honor their more established foes, rather than bash them, and truck enthusiasts who watch the ad closely will get that. "We know and understand in the truck world that you have to show respect to earn respect of a typical truck buyer," said Fred Diaz, Nissan North America's division VP and general manager for trucks and light commercial vehicles. "And we wanted to to do that in a very true and authentic way without it at all coming across that we are giving a backhanded compliment to our competitors."
The older trucks in the ad were picked because "those trucks are actually icons in truck culture, so each one of them represents an evolution for trucks," said Jeremy Tucker, Nissan North America's VP of marketing communications and media.
The competing trucks shown include the 1972 Chevy C10, which was known for bridging the gap between a work truck and a daily driving vehicle, Nissan executives said. Also shown is a 1985 Dodge truck that was the first truck with a Cummins diesel engine (the Titan XD uses a Cummins 5.0L V8 Turbo Diesel); and a 1995 Ford F-150 that was co-branded with Eddie Bauer and a had a luxury interior, Nissan executives said.
"Each of these trucks are worthy of genuine recognition. And from a Nissan perspective, we look forward to being included among them in the future," Mr. Tucker said.
Read the full story on the Nissan ad on Adage.com.