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Are these two electric car ads for Renault and Nissan by any chance related?

May 30, 2011

The chances are you won’t have seen Renault’s expensive new global campaign, promoting the virtues of its ZE electric model. That’s because it won’t be airing in Britain until September.

Which is a pity, because it’s a nicely crafted piece of advertising that fetes the coming of the electric revolution in an unusually humorous, ironic way. Irony being a hallmark of neither the automobile industry nor the French ad industry.

It’s produced by Paris-based Publicis Conseil and driven, as it were, by the agency’s chief creative officer Olivier Altmann. And here, for the uninitiated, it is:

Nifty, isn’t  it? Now, here’s another campaign, produced by TBWA for the Nissan LEAF. It has just begun airing in the USA. I wonder if you can spot the differences:

Spookily similar aren’t they? In fact, so similar you would draw the obvious conclusion that these rival car giants were collaborating in a global generic push for their electric car technology.

Nor, at first sight, is that such a silly conclusion. After all, Nissan and Renault are related. Renault, run by Brazilian whizz kid Carlos Ghosn, is the dominant partner in an alliance, with a 44.3 % stake in Nissan; while Nissan has a strategic cross-holding of 15% (with no voting rights) in Renault.

However, the collaboration is firmly anchored in technological development, production improvements and a bit of badge engineering. It does not extend to sales and marketing – which are still regarded as totally separate operations and highly competitive ones at that.

Yet that’s precisely what Publicis Conseil and TBWA appear to be doing with the electric platform – collaborating. The production values of the two ads may be slightly different, and there are significant variations in the development of the story board, but the creative concept appears to be identical.

Not so, I’m told. There is fury in both agencies, which have taken to accusing each other of plagiarism. At very least there must have been a leak. Legals have been threatened … though I doubt the threat will come to anything. So, come on boys, tell us: who had the idea first?

UPDATE: The answer to my last question may be, “Neither”. A chum in Italy, Tommaso Ridolfi, tells me there is a third ingredient in this thickening plot: Mitsubishi Motors. Mitsubishi launched its i MiEV(Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) on the European retail market at the end of last year. Check out this ad, ‘Let’s Go Electric’, for similarities to the above. It bears an uncanny resemblance, particularly to the Nissan spot. The only thing is, it appears to have preceded them, airing in March. Mitsubishi is certainly not an ally of Renault or Nissan. For more commentary, see Joelapompe’s site.

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To young people, the car has essentially become a mobile

August 24, 2009

imagesIt’s ugly and I wouldn’t buy it. But I’m not the target market. And you have to hand it to Nissan, they have come up with an intriguing social insight.

I’m talking about the US launch of the chunky little Cube, which bears an uncanny similarity to an iPhone on wheels. The similarity is quite deliberate, according to Nissan North America Christian Meunier: “We envision owners using their Cubes as one of their essential mobile devices, connecting with friends, sharing music and sharing fun,” he says.

Actually, the Cube – very much a youth car – long predates the iPhone, having first launched in 1998. Credit for this particular positioning must go to Nissan’s ad agency TBWAChiatDay which – you guessed it if you didn’t know already – also handles iPod and iPhone marketing for Apple.

I don’t think the parallel works at all levels.  iPhones, even in the USA, are far too expensive to be the exclusive preserve of youth. Whereas this $14,000 car is unlikely to appeal to anyone more mature. But as a planning insight the new Cube is not without interest.

550 Spyder to die for

550 Spyder: To die for

If you think about it, the slim, elegant smart phone of today’s generation is the equivalent of life in the fast lane in the Fifties. James Dean liked fast cars so much he managed to kill himself in one. Today, according to research conducted by CNW Marketing, young people – when asked what would most impress their friends – said an iPhone (80%). A new car came a distant second (20%).


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