There are probably worse things than Nissan's latest ad campaign for the 2011 Juke -- Ebola, for example. Or pleated pants. Or Bieber Fever. Or...well, that's about it.
It's a shame, because we've been blessed with a slew of good car commercials in recent weeks. The "Imported from Detroit" ad for the Chrysler 200 was controversial, sure, but it was well done. And the Jetta ad starring the pint-sized Darth Vader was both clever and cute (whether it'll move cars is another story). But despite all those triumphs, those tiny aesthetic gains, it feels like we've all been dumped back at Square One thanks to Nissan and its ad agency TBWAChiatDay.
The concept behind the Juke campaign is pretty simple -- in fact, let's call it simple-minded. In a nutshell, the company decided to stage some field tests, pitting its new model against potential Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. (See what they did there?) Here's an example:
The campaign represents a partnership between Nissan and Sports Illustrated, with most of the content being pushed by SI (meaning that perhaps Nissan should bear only half the blame). Visitors to the Sports Illustrated website can watch the ads, learn more about potential SI swimsuit models, and vote for the one they'd most like to see in the 2012 swimsuit issue.
Let's overlook the tired stereotypes for a moment. Let's ignore anything we might've learned from our teachers, family members, and other role models about the proper way to treat women. Let's ignore the fact that Nissan has basically done a real-life version of some fake Jeep ads we could mention -- or fake Nissan ads, for that matter.
Let's ignore all that and call out the real problem here: laziness. Nissan has a whole marketing department at its beck and call, not to mention the resources at TBWAChiatDay. Those folks represent a small army capable of identifying trends and interests among the Juke's target market (which, given the ads, appears to be 14-year-old boys, who can't legally drive anyway). And yet this five-second idea is what Nissan chose to go with. Contrast that with Volkswagen, which hasn't been batting 1000 in the ad arena but certainly did its homework on the Darth Vader piece and came up with a clever ad that speaks to men, women, moms, dads, and the thousands of Gen Xers and Yers who grew up with Star Wars.
Now, in Nissan's defense, we know that they were somewhat limited in their options by the tie-up with SI. (In fact, the company seems slightly embarrassed by it, not even bothering to mention it on the videos' YouTube pages.) And in TBWAChiatDay's defense, we're sure that the firm's creative team came up with a number of clever campaign concepts. Unfortunately this is the one that stuck: a weakly comic series of stunts built around a model/model pun worthy of second-graders.
C'mon, Nissan. Leave the swimsuit models to Lexus. The Juke's an intriguing new ride, so surely you can come up with something more intriguing to sell it across multiple demographics.
For curious types, here are the official ad credits, and there's a press release below:
Advertising Agency: TBWAChiatDay, USA
Chief Creative Officer: Rob Schwartz
Group Creative Director: Margaret Keene, Chris Adams
Creative Director: Tito Melega
Copywriters: Alex Grossman, Steve Bolton
Art Director: Dave Estrada
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Nissan launches an unusual partnership with Sports Illustrated and a bevy of beautiful models.
Just the Facts:
- Nissan has partnered with Sports Illustrated to launch the "Model Search" contest for the 2011 swimsuit issue.
- Part of the effort includes a comparison test between the human models and the Nissan Juke.
- In one series of videos, the Juke and "Amber" are pitted against each other in such categories as curb appeal, acceleration, aerodynamics and agility.
The "model vs. model" contest allows participants to pick the woman who will get a "guaranteed feature" in the 2012 swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated.
In one comparison test, a model named "Amber" is pitted against the turbocharged Juke in such categories as curb appeal, acceleration, aerodynamics and agility. The narrator, who is identified as the "Juke Guy," helpfully explains what is going on and defines such automotive terms as "drag."
"Drag is where boys wear lady things," he intones.
In a statement, Nissan said the "campaign measures all key attributes of both car and lovely lady."
The videos place Amber in a wind tunnel with the Juke or in what appears to be a zero-60 mph acceleration contest. Amber wears platform shoes and a bikini. Specifications posted underneath the video say the Juke churns out 188 horsepower, while Amber clocks in at 1.2 horsepower. The Juke beats Amber in this particular contest — at least on paper. In the curb appeal category, the Juke is described as having "muscular curvature," while Amber has "plenty of curvature."
The contest starts today and runs through March 9. The winner will be announced on March 10. Voting can be done online.