Nissan’s Unbelievable Frontier Ads

By Jean Halliday
Nissan North America has unleashed a couple of over-the-top TV commercials for its Frontier pickup. One of them in particular is generating lots of online buzz.
Called “Landing Gear,” the spot shows the mid-size Frontier rescuing a commercial airline with landing gear trouble.

There’s plenty of non-believers out there about the reality of Frontier’s ability to pull off this amazing feat, according to the comments on YouTube, where the commercial has already tallied a very respectable number of views- more than 305,000 in just a few weeks.
After all, the maximum towing capacity of the 2012 Frontier is rated at up to 6,500 pounds maximum, when properly equipped. Let’s estimate, conservatively, that the weight for the nose for that moving plane weighs about 30,000 pounds.
Anyone see a problem here?
It’s hard to remember the last time Nissan even advertised its mid-size pickup and it’s a mystery why it would take this route.
Then there’s the other commercial, dubbed “ Hill Climb,” showing the Frontier doing another incredible task.

Plenty of non-believers commented on YouTube about this one too. “The commercials are actually 100 percent fake, which tells you everything you need to know about the company which paid for them. You really want to buy a truck from people who have zero respect for the viewing audience?”
And finally, Nissan more recently posted this online-only video spoofing the landing gear mishap as a real news story. You can see that one here:

Nissan, and its legal beagles, have however, covered their butts on all three of these. If you look very closely- and quickly- all three videos have the small words “ Fictionalization. Do not attempt.”
So there.
The commercial is, to put it politely, a dramatization. But the words are only there for the opening 4-to-6 seconds before they disappear. Clearly the YouTube viewers debating the videos’ veracity have not spotted the disclaimer.
Why would an automaker want to show one of their products doing something it can’t really do? It insults consumers and in the end belittles the product.
Nissan could also run the risk of rival complaints for deceptive advertising to either the Federal Trade Commission or National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business.
Brings back memories of Volvo’s 1990 “Monster Truck” commercial scandal. The Volvo was the only car not crushed by a “monster truck” in that spot, but Volvo didn’t reveal in the ad that the roof of its vehicle had been reinforced. The FTC levied fines of of $150,000 against both Volvo and its then-ad agency, Scali, McCabe, Sloves in Manhattan, which got fired over the incident.
As if the buzzing online doubts about the Frontier’s abilities isn’t enough, another online grapevine is building that Nissan and its ad agency, TBWA, stole the “Landing Gear” idea from Jeep.
Ex-Chrysler marketing executive Jeff Bell was the first to sound the alarm about this, posting on Facebook: “Just shows you that 1) the people running auto marketing have either no historical awareness or 2) they have no pride and enjoy plagiarism.”
Ouch!
Decide for yourself. Here’s the cheeky viral ad Bell says Chrysler had made for Jeep of Europe:

FYI- This 405 project (www.405:themovie.com) was produced by Bruce Branit and Jeremy Hunt for Jeep in 2000, one of very early viral videos that Yahoo Internet Life magazine called the web movie of that year.
Okay, even though the two commercials are very similar, we’re not saying TBWA took Jeep’s idea. There are coincidences. But with search portals, YouTube’s vast body of material and other sites, it’s pretty easy to check whether that Big Idea for your commercial is truly fresh.
So, I did some surfing of my own and found this very similar image in the first 10 seconds of a montage of 1970s and 1980s commercials for the Chevrolet Silverado by Campbell-Ewald in Warren, Michigan:

Hmm, so was it Jeep that first ripped off GM’s similar idea back in 2000?
Big Ideas for advertising could be like the myth of the Christmas Fruit Cakes: there’s only seven of them in the world and they keep getting passed on.
If you’re going to do a dramatic pickup ad, you might as well go over the top, but in an entertaining way that the audience knows is fake.
One of my favorites was for Ford’s 1997 model F-150. By JWT Detroit, it broke during the 1996 Super Bowl and featured actor Jack Palance as a tough cowboy who uses the pickup and a lariat to rope a butte and close a river gorge.

Now that’s a Big Idea.

MAKING TRACKS: Eric Grenier moved to VP – Director, Enterprise at Ford’s ad agency- Team Detroit in Dearborn – from Organic.

***THIS POST first appeared in CNW Research’s most recent subscriber-only  Retail Automotive Summary.

You can follow me on Facebook and LinkedIn. Also on Twitter as @jhal2001

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