By on July 14, 2018

Having released the pint-sized Kicks crossover into the North American market last month, Nissan needed marketing material to help boost visibility. Normally, car ads are platitudinous, offering little in the way of novelty to get us truly excited. The reason for this is because trying something different can result in an overwhelmingly bizarre experience. Kia’s reverse aging of Steven Tyler inside the Stinger GT is a prime example. It was the wrong rockstar for its target demographic and left us scratching our heads.

Other automakers allow marketing companies to pilot the brand into weird abstractions where they aren’t selling a car so much as an identity. Cadillac stumbled into trouble with this a few years ago, leaning into a more product-based advertising strategy ever since.

So what of the Kicks? The vehicle is clearly aimed at trendy youngsters seeking a good deal and some style. Will its ads cater to them, offering something vaguely informational, or will it be another televised dud

Nissan and its chosen agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day, appeared not to have made a mess of things. The Kicks receives a 45-second spot that is both visually appealing and — get this — actually promotes a cool aspect of the vehicle. It’s almost like someone took time to craft the advertisement to ensure it had something to do with the model — while targeting the correct audience.

The ad begins with a young man grooving on the top level of a parking garage. While dancing is a painfully overused activity in advertising, often having nothing to do with product or service being promoted, it’s fitting in this instance. As the man seats himself in a lawn chair and removes his headphones, the Kicks’ seat back forms from it — prominently featuring the Bose speakers inside the driver’s seat headrest.


(Appropriate use of “First Ever” – Ed.)

From there, the vehicle continues to manifest itself around the man. His phone becomes the center console as our hero pops-and-locks the rest of the crossover into existence. It’s all expertly choreographed, spending the majority of its run time focusing on the car and not what it might mean to take personal ownership of some kind of thematic identity promoted by the brand.

It’s just a regular guy who likes music getting into a car that can deliver some straight into his ears, surrounded by memorable imagery. While an extra, the Kicks’ Bose Personal Plus sound system upgrades the speakers and places two UltraNearfield units into the driver’s headrest. That’s a cool gimmick, helping offset some of the vehicle’s shortcomings. But, for the price, it’s really hard to be down on the subcompact.

2018 Nissan Kicks

The Kicks only makes 125 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque, but it’s so light, our Managing Editor claims you don’t really notice the missing grunt all that much. It lacks some modern hardware and optional all-wheel drive, but it’s comfortable, with enough sound deadening to enjoy the audio system — upgraded or not. For a car that starts at $17,990, you get more than you might have expected, plus fun styling and a dash of personality.

Nissan said it wanted to convey that personality on the screen and highlight the vehicle by leaning on its strengths. According to Ad Age, the marketing team worked backwards by hunting for music that would inspire a campaign that was emotional while still allowing them to plug the crossover’s features. But Jeremy Tucker, VP of marketing communications and media at Nissan North America, said there had to be more to the ad than just showing off the vehicle’s hardware.

Tucker posited that “technology for technology’s sake can make you very quickly into an appliance … cold and unemotive. And it can freak out consumers because they feel like they’re losing control of the driving experience.”

We’re inclined to agree, but do like when automakers focus on what a vehicle is and does in addition to how it’s supposed to make the customer feel. Fortunately, Nissan looks to have struck a decent balance with this spot. It plans to continue working with TBWA\Chiat\Day in the future, which seems like a relatively smart move. This may not be a phenomenal ad (or vehicle), but it’s serviceable and unpretentious — which is all it needed to be.

2018 Nissan Kicks

[Images: Nissan]

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28 Comments on “Nissan’s Kicks Ad Proves Automakers Can Still Do Marketing Right...”

  • avatar

    “The ad begins with a young man grooving…” Stop! They missed their demographic. The people who are going to buy this covered golf cart “grooved” to Pat Boone. Fail.

    • 0 avatar

      Aw, Nissan didn’t miss the demographic, Matt just isn’t hip to the latest lingo, to coin a phrase.

    • 0 avatar

      True, but people who “grooved” to Pat Boone don’t want to see a reflection of themselves, they want to see what they perceive themselves to be. There’s that saying that goes “You can sell a young man’s car to an old man, but you can’t sell an old man’s car to a young man” Well, apparently you can’t sell an old man’s car to an old man either.

      So, here we are

    • 0 avatar

      Using Pat Boone as the soundtrack would have upped the hipster street cred of this ad about 1000%

  • avatar

    You guys sure love this thing.

  • avatar

    It’s interesting how advertising affects people in different ways.

    The Mazda ad was panned for it’s cloying overacting and angsty teen vibe, but underneath the veneer was a substantive message about vehicles as aspirational purchases. Mazda also reinterpreted their logo as being a set of wings. The ad conveyed an underlying message and had a genuine marketing purpose.

    This Nissan ad also features cloying youth-driven stereotypes, but it’s devoid of any underlying concept. My narcissistic overuse of expressive movements can conjure a vehicle from a pair of headphones and a touchscreen device?

    The acting in the Nissan ad is less obnoxious, and Nissan spent a lot more money on CGI. That is perhaps the only praise I can give this Kicks spot. This is just boilerplate corporate pablum. About as flavorful and nourishing as Saltines.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    No problem, give me the paperwork and I’ll have the Kindergarteners at my local school fill it out.
    Their numbers can’t be any worse than Teslas, and if their wrong, no one will put them in jail.

  • avatar

    I think the commercial showed ingenuity. However, I think they did miss the target demographic. I am considering this for my mother, who is 76. Not too fussy with tech and touch screens ala GM.

  • avatar

    This is an inexpensive vehicle, so I have no problem with them targeting millennials. I look forward to the next instalment where racially ambiguous guy in episode one meets sexually ambiguous salmon panted dude! This holds the potential of rivalling VW’s Da Da Da commercial.

  • avatar

    The ad itself isn’t too unpleasant, but the car is sure easier to see out of before it gains doors (and a roof and tailgate). Really, there’s no good reason that cars in this class can’t have, say, 80 to 90% of the side and rear visibility of a 2003-08 Forester while still being stylish. The Kicks appears to have slightly better visibility than the Juke, but that’s not saying much.

  • avatar


    There’s a phrase that got old fast. It seems like every other ad that the internet throws at me has got “FIRST EVER” in front of it.

  • avatar

    They’re going to sell a crap-ton of these. This time they’ll beat Toyota’s direct competitor. I can’t stand CUVs, but maybe some profits here will fund a 370Z replacement.

  • avatar

    My daughter is off to college in September. When (“if”) she decides to come home for a visit, it’s 250kms (150m) each way. I would much rather see her in a new one of these than somebody’s used Civic. So much, in fact, that it’s pretty much a done deal.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Soooooo…300more pounds and 10 more HP than a 92 Sentra XE (I could get said Sentra with 120 sweet revving HP in the SE-R…may it rest in peace).

    I mean if I’m going to go back to that era with respect to HP to Weight, I at least hope it is fun to drive. Kudos for offering a manual. Get it low, make it handle, and I’m all ears.

    It is cool that they have managed to get within 300 pounds of the Sentra of 25 years ago with all the modern safety and convince stuff. Now make it handle and I’ll be impressed. Otherwise it is an underpowered crapbox that doesn’t measure up to Nissan’s offerings in the segment from 20+ years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      140 HP…not 120 for the 92 SE-R. Can I just get an SR20 motor in one of these. Seems only fair I at least get what I could get 25 years ago. With a decent suspension it might be, dare I say…fun?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      BTW, a twin cam Saturn from the early 90s displacing 1.9 liters was good for 124 hp. The 1.6 in my 1800 pound 90 Miata was good for 116 hp. Did I go to sleep and wake up in 1977?

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    I’m clearly too old for this car. When he begins to unfold the car, all I could think of was the scene in “Brain Donors” when Bob Nelson unfolds a complete workspace from a briefcase.

  • avatar

    He’s still driving down that endless ramp. It all seems lonely and sad.

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