October 6th, 2006


Living the Promotional (aka- Unrealistic) Life

It's been a year since I'd parted ways with my beloved Xterra. And while it was extremely hard and sad to give up the height, power and roominess, I've happily adjusted to the money-savings, gas mileage and zippiness. I even, as many of you recall, made many modifications to help get over the loss of the SUV such as the sound system and satellite radio, roof racks for the bikes and kayaks and a trailer hitch for the jet ski:

So when I came across a NY Times article about Nissan's attempt to improve the marketing of the 2007 Sentra through having a comedian live in it for a week, I read it with great interest. As the article stated, the campaign's slogan is “The next generation Sentra. You could pretty much live in it.”

Of course, that statement alone interested me because while my 2004 Sentra is efficient and fairly inexpensive, I couldn't really "live in it" without the mods I'd added. (Well, I suppose I could if I were desperate enough, but the stereo would sound crappy and I'd grow tired of terrestrial radio, not to mention I'd need my boat and bikes for when I'd want to get around without the car.) So after comedian Marc Horowitz spent 7 days in the car, Nissan's advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day then created nissanusa.com/7days where we get to see how it went.

This was the image the article included... if showering with a garden hose is Nissan's idea of the "Sentra life," count me out.

I have to say, the concept gets an "A" from me for creativity, but I was dismayed when I read this part:

“The Sentra had become a deal car, and it had to go from deal car to desired car,” said Rob Schwartz, executive creative director for Nissan at the Playa del Rey, Calif., office of TBWA/Chiat/Day.

Constantly making deals on Sentra meant that Nissan could not “get the ideal person driving the car,” Mr. Schwartz said, “the urbane, more youthful target.”

Rather, “you get a 49-year-old suburban woman smoking brown More cigarettes,” he added.

What??? GROSS. I think Mr. Schwartz has the Sentra confused with the Kia Rio. Every Sentra owner I've come across is usually in their 20's to early 30's (or it was a rental car the driver ended up with). And as a side note, where'd he come up with brown More cigarettes?? People actually smoke those nowadays?????

And while Sentra is a decently-priced, simple car, I mostly decided to get one because of the gas mileage. It seems to me that Nissan's doing with the Sentra what they did with the Xterra: have it fall into a certain price range for a few years and then add so many ridiculous "perks" that the vehicle becomes unattainable for its originally intended demographic.

I'll be curious to see how Nissan's Sentra campaign plays out. The article states that they're spending $40 million to $50 million on this effort, which includes leveraging the likes of MySpace and a blog. And yes, younger, hipper, non-49-year-old-suburban-More-cigarette-smokers are the typical users of "new media," but will they all be rushing out to buy a brand new Sentra with a base price of $16,000? (ie- does NOT have the amenities that Marc's Sentra did... his had an automatic transmission, sun roof, power doors/locks/windows, leather seating, BlueTooth-enabled OnStar-like thingy, premium sound system, etc. That version costs at least $23K to $26K. And that's a conservative estimate!)

My guess is "no."