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‘Trust’ in agencies key to bold creative work says Nissan’s GM of marketing

Car manufacturer Nissan is repositioning its Navara brand as it attempts to increase the ute's appeal beyond just tradespeople. Zoe Samios speaks to Nissan's GM of marketing, Rebecca Williams, and creative agency TBWA to find out what risks the brand is taking and how they will pay off.

Nissan’s new ad featuring a Navara driving through thousands of wildebeests wouldn’t have occurred without the trust of in its long-standing relationship with agency TBWA Melbourne, Rebecca Williams, general manager of marketing at Nissan Australia says.

The latest work, which sees a father and son embark on a journey through the desert surrounded by wildebeests, is a major step away from Navara’s previous campaigns and aims to broaden the car model’s audience beyond tradesmen to include families.

After 23 years of collaboration, Williams says having an agency that knows the brand allows for “bold” work.

“The comfort of having an agency that knows you inside-out and back to front means you can have those really honest and robust conversations and you trust each other inherently to create a really bold epic piece,” she says.

The campaign, which was created using computer-generated imagery (CGI) was a major step away from traditional Navara work.

“I would say if the trust wasn’t there we wouldn’t have gone down that path,” Williams says.

Trust is a really strong benefit and it’s why we’ve created this piece of work. If we didn’t have that relationship it wouldn’t have been possible.

“It certainly has been the secret ingredient to creating really brilliant work – having the ability to trust each other and also challenging each other.”

An example of previous work: Nissan Navara’s 2012 campaign:

Paul Reardon, executive creative director at TBWA Melbourne, says the brand’s long-standing relationship with the agency allowed them to approach the new work in a different way.

“The trust comes back to the investment. How much do we trust each other that this is the right idea to go with?

“I’m talking right idea from the embryonic stage. Not from that stage when the agency rolls in the door and says ‘boom’ and drops it as though it’s the answer to everything. That’s the worst way to work,” he says.

“You have to step through this whole process together, because then when it gets to the end of it, and you’ve not only had buy-in from the very start, you’ve really created the idea and strategy together.”

Commenting on the latest piece of work, Nissan’s Williams explains the ad came from the insight that one in five Australians were driving ‘ute’ modelled cars.

“We’re finding the way audiences have been traditionally pegged against certain models of cars within the automotive industry is not reflective of the buying habits anymore,” she says.

“One in five Australians are now driving these vehicles. As the category started to evolve we really started on that journey of that saying, we need to reflect the fact our customers are changing in the segment.

Williams: “The way audiences have been traditionally pegged against certain models of cars within the automotive industry is not reflective of the buying habits anymore”

“It’s not your traditional tradesperson who might use it for their work, even if their work is six/seven days a week. It really is evolving and that’s where we got to a really interesting story and insight that families are quite often buying these vehicles and there’s a real merging of work and leisure,” she explains. 

“That’s how we settled on something that’s probably quite disruptive for the category which is unusual really, given it seems to be a common story, but one that nobody’s telling.”

Reardon said the idea of a road-trip between father and son was an “emotive place to start”.

“Part of picking a car is what the kid’s going to get out of it just as much as the parents – whether that’s on a worksite or a road trip.

“It’s big and over the top, and the car has become part of a migrating herd of wildebeests, but there’s still something in it that we can relate to.”

Reardon says the fact that the campaign was able to be produced in Australia allowed for more control over the narrative.

“It’s a great reflection of what we are capable of producing in this country, with CG,” he says.

“In this case you can have a car driving through what looks like thousands and thousands of wildebeests, picking up dust, showing off all the capabilities of the car.

“That was all the magic of CGI,” he adds. 

The ‘wildebeest’ which was transformed into thousands using CGI

Williams also attributed the brand’s ability to be bold to its well-established position in market.

“There’s 60-plus brands that are competing to have an identity in the market and with such a big category for the utes, and the local manufacturers that are evolving, it’s a really complex environment and a really lucrative environment.

“So it’s a growing category with lots of new players and standing out is quite difficult for most brands,” she says.

“The benefit for us is that most Australians have either driven, owned or wanted to have a Navara in the drive-way. So we are very lucky in the sense we have a name plate on that model but also brand-wise, we have a very recognisable brand and a great history there.

“In terms of standing out in the category, it gave us a licence to be a bit more bold than some of our competitors, and do a really epic piece of work.”

When asked about how Nissan would measure its success, Williams said she wants to “get people talking”.

“Obviously you want it to translate into sales and increase aspiration for the product, but for us it was that disruption piece – let’s get people talking about this which from my perspective we’ve been successful.”

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