When it comes to automotive advertising, sometimes it pays to toss out the driver's manual, ignore the rules of the road and veer off in an unexpected direction.
Take Nissan, which scored a coup this week with "Shoulders of Giants," a surprising 90-second spot from TBWA\Chiat\Day that's generated considerable buzz in the industry and among consumers.
Launched during Monday's college football championship game, the ad savvily introduces the Titan XD pickup while paying homage to Nissan's competitors.
"We have all had a giant," a child's voiceover begins, "someone who stood tall, who showed us how to be what we could become and how to get there." Dramatic footage of hero types—firefighters, football stars, astronauts—follows, intercut with scenes of youngsters running, climbing, exploring or just lying under the stars, dreaming.
We catch glimpses of various pickups, all of the vintage variety—none of them Nissans—as the narration sums up: "To those who have gone before us—Chevy, Ford, Dodge—thank you. We see the way forward." At the end, the Titan XD appears, proud inheritor of an automotive legacy that spans several generations and nameplates.
The approach seems counterintuitive, but the strategy allows Nissan to take the high road, respectfully acknowledging its antecedents while laying claim to the future.
"This was about grabbing people's attention to claim our seat at the table," Jeremy Tucker, vice president of marketing communications and media at Nissan North America, tells Adweek. "It's a fact that our competitors are the category and responsible for driving industry and truck culture. With this fact, we aimed to give respect to get respect to start the conversation."
That conversation has been especially animated. Nissan reports 4.2 million total impressions and nearly 4 million combined views across Facebook and YouTube, with sentiment on the latter running about 96 percent positive.
Even some world-weary industry observers are impressed. "The spot is bold, different and clearly gets its message across: 'We have arrived,' " says Paul Eisenstein, editor and publisher of TheDetroitBureau.com.
George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, adds, "The ad goes counter to almost all automotive advertising ever done. Brave—and very cool."
Unorthodox maneuvers, meticulously planned and executed with care, can help canny brands pull away from the pack.