Nissan Inks Deal with Microsoft

Nissan has inked an omnibus relationship with Microsoft, through the software company's Digital Advertising Solutions program. The deal gives Nissan a broad presence in Microsoft portals and platforms, and access to Microsoft brain trust to develop unique programs for the automaker on Web and wireless digital platforms like PDA's, MSN, Window Live, Live Search, Xbox, and Windows Mobile.

The expanded advertising deal also gives Nissan access to Microsoft content developers, strategists and subject matters experts to aide in Nissan’s ability to reach its target consumers. According to Microsoft, the MSN network alone reaches some 465 million consumers worldwide monthly, with "millions more" who tap into Windows Live, Xbox Live and Office Online.??Among forthcoming ventures, Nissan will sponsor an Xbox 360 console game, called Forza Motorsport 2, a global tournament on Xbox Live, and an Infiniti and branded magazine and blog called "Open for Design." It will also get access to targeted marketing channels like search advertising on Microsoft adCenter, behavioral targeting, and first dibs on in pilot advertising programs within Windows Mobile and Office Live. Finally, Nissan and Infiniti dealerships will be highlighted in Windows Live Local maps.

"It really started with the realization that big portals are really online networks," said Steve Kerho, Nissan director of media and interactive marketing. He said the new deal differs substantially from what had, till now, been a project-basis relationship with Microsoft and its properties. "The breadth of it is different, and the fact that it is all integrated around one particular strategy," he said, adding that the goal of the association is to suffuse Nissan into its target consumers' "communication eco-systems."

"Media is very fragmented right now, consumers are in control of when, where and how they consume media. We sat together with MSN, and carved up the whole day: how and when and where and what does [the target consumer's] day look like? We actually have the opportunity now to sit down with developers and brainstorm on what content will be engaging, where and when."

He added that the expanded relationship with Microsoft reflects an effort to have more flexibility in choosing "push" and "pull" media based on needs of specific vehicles, and which part of the purchase funnel for a given vehicle model needs bolstering. "Pull has a high level of engagement, but it doesn't scale that well. Depending on media property, and audiences, they have programs that scale very well for us." By way of example, he said the forthcoming redesigned Altima sedan, bowing early next year, will will benefit from awareness building elements on MSN portals, Messenger, and Hotmail, down to lower purchase-funnel efforts on Windows Live, and MSN Live Local, with local-dealer and MSN mapping technology driving the dealer locator within Nissan's own consumer Web site.

While Kerho said Nissan isn't abandoning traditional media, Nissan marketing chief Jan Thompson reportedly said, at an Automotive News marketing seminar in LA this summer that TV would get less media dollars because Nissan has gotten good at analyzing ROI on digital media. Nissan, which spent over a billion dollars in measured media last year between its two auto brands, has also created similar strategic relationships with Yahoo and Google.

"Internally, we are talking about marketing 2.0. What's unique is the unique is breadth and depth of this," said Kerho.--Karl Greenberg

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