Nissan Targets African Americans Online

In an attempt to crack into the burgeoning African-American middle class market, Nissan North America said on Thursday it plans to roll out an ad campaign for Black History Month that will celebrate notable African Americans through history.

In addition to TV, outdoor and print advertising, Nissan will feature an interactive component on, a New York-based Web site geared to African Americans, as well as its own site.

According to research by Target Market News, a trade publication focused on the black consumer market, African-American spending on new and used cars from 1996 to 2001 more than doubled, surpassing $43 billion.

Designed by minority-focused ad agency True, the campaign’s theme is “The Black Experience.” It is designed to dovetail with Nissan’s “Shift” ad campaign, which was launched in September as an image overhaul. The campaign replaced the company’s four-year-old “Driven” push.

“The Black Experience” will focus on “shifters, shakers and groundbreakers” in the African-American community that have made significant contributions in the arts, science and business from 1619 to the present. ads will link to the Nissan Web site’s manifesto, called “Shift_Respect”, that asserts the African-American influence on cultural icons from Picasso to Elvis, while celebrating achievements in black history ranging from inventing the traffic light to fighting for freedom

The three-page manifesto will also be featured in print magazines.

“‘The Black Experience’ definitely shifts the standard for all Nissan advertising,” said Steve Wilhite, vice president, marketing at Nissan North America. “Consistent with ‘Shift,’ this work goes beyond product and defines what Nissan strives to accomplish in our company and through our brand — to challenge each of us to change a life, a world, or simply the way we move through it.”

The ad campaign, whose financial details were not disclosed, is the first that True has designed for Nissan. The agency, which is partially owned by Ominicom’s TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles, focuses on campaigns to reach minorities. Two months after it was formed in May 2002, Nissan hired it to develop strategies to tap into the African-American market. Nissan said the account was worth over $10 million.

The print ads will begin running later this month in a variety of magazines, including Black Enterprise, Essence, Savoy and Vibe. The outdoor campaign is focused on major metropolitan cities with sizeable African-American populations, like Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Atlanta.

The second phase of the campaign will feature television adverting. Nissan did not disclose details of the TV strategy.

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