Clients: Paul Willcox, vice-president, marketing, Nissan Europe; Bastien Schupp, general manager, marketing communications, Nissan Europe
Brief: Raise awareness and consideration for the new Nissan Qashqai, an SUV-style hatchback, before its above-the-line launch, among a cynical, predominantly online, audience
Target audience: 25- to 35-year-old urban males, typically with little or no interest in Nissan
Creative and strategic: TBWA\London, TBWA\G1
Media: Manning Gottlieb OMD
Viral seeding: GoViral
Website design: DUKE
The "Qashqai Car Games" campaign was created as a pre-launch to the above-the-line campaign, and to generate awareness of Nissan's new breed of car - a compact crossover called Qashqai - before the product launched last month.
A big idea and unique approach to launching a car was needed to make a cynical, predominantly online audience of 25- to 35-year-old urban males, with little or no predisposition towards Nissan, to take notice.
Eschewing a conventional broadcast TV approach, an inter-agency taskforce was put together to deliver inspiring content via online channels, targeting a total of 13 countries during a five-month period.
The idea was to invent an entertaining new urban sport called the "Qashqai Car Games" and create a whole universe around it. Everything that makes a sport entertaining was brought to life, including the history, the rules, six national teams, logos, crazy drivers, psychotic fans, merchandise, stunt moves, equipment, photo galleries, unique car specifications, as well as actual footage of the Qashqai performing fantastic stunts off giant "skate" ramps.
- Viral: Five different virals were seeded at intervals throughout the campaign, showing footage of jaw-dropping stunts captured at different events, from underground gatherings in abandoned shipyards to huge Super Bowl-type games in Japan.
- Seeding and interaction: The viral content was seeded on approximately 2,000 sites, and the various groups and communities were interacted with in different ways to help take it to the mainstream. Consumer feedback (mock virals, reviews and blogs) was responded to, and built upon, in order to fuel the debate as to whether or not the sport was real.
- Online: All content was supported by, and housed on, an official website, which could be found at www.qashqaicargames.com, where all the detail on the sport could be found, as well as further information on the Qashqai itself.
- Ambient and PR: To make the "Qashqai Car Games" universe even bigger, as the campaign gained impetus, the sport was taken into the real world, with PR from the "press office" of the "Qashqai Car Games", team trucks, market stalls, giant ramps driven on-road, flyers, magazines and a clothing label.
Within the first month, the campaign attracted 3.5 million views, and by the time the Nissan Qashqai launched, that figure was more than 14 million. The campaign reached across 212 countries and was picked up by 4,370 sites - a number that will continue to increase as the virals keep spreading.
In the target countries, the campaign elements have generated six million views, while the virals still generate more than 40,000 views a day.
The product microsite managed to attract more than 1.7 million unique visitors during the campaign period.
When it comes to issues of cost-efficiency and awareness, the campaign has been very successful, and with the still- increasing amount of views, the initial cost per view of EUR0.3 continues to decrease; it is down to EUR0.05.
From what was effectively a tiny pre-launch budget, targets were exceeded by 300 per cent across 14 European countries to make the Qashqai fly.
THE VERDICT - Matt Andrews joint managing director, Vizeum
This is a difficult brief. Launch a new breed of car, a cross between an SUV and a hatchback, to a fickle, young, urban male audience.
The solution is a smart one. Driven by the insight that young men are interested in skateboarding, the strategy tries to position the car in that world.
The obvious route would be to follow the herd of corporate brands that have jumped on the extreme/urban sports bandwagon and sponsor or create an event. But this is a cluttered space, and most brands sit rather self-consciously on the perimeter of these events, not really sure what they are doing there. Nissan didn't want to find itself in such an uncomfortable space.
Recognising this audience is a cynical one, the idea to develop a virtual event - the "Qashqai Car Games" - works on a number of levels. It positions the Qashqai as a fun, urban "streetcar". It uses a parody of Japanese culture and a tongue-in-cheek Banzai-style humour, so that the audience can appreciate Nissan is not taking itself too seriously and trying to be too cool. It understands the brand can't be at the forefront of the communication, and plays by the new rules of engagement: entertain to engage, then let the audience discover the brand for themselves.
It sees the digital opportunity clearly. Why create a real event for a few thousand in one location, when you can create something bigger and better than reality online that will be seen by several million across the world? Finally, the games will continue for as long as the viral films are passed around, which gives the campaign longevity (and increasing cost efficiency).
Faced with a challenge, the campaign starts from a different place, and asks how to engage first before the brand starts talking. When the campaign did eventually break on TV, the skateboard theme was continued (in a much safer format), so the online idea drives the TV creative and the whole thing feels integrated.
It would be easy to cast doubt over the real communication effectiveness of this activity. You can't measure effect only in exposure, and there is no real evidence to suggest that this drove sales, but that is a bigger issue.
Overall, this campaign works because it is honest about the situation the brand finds itself in and is prepared to do things in a new way.
Score: 4 out of 5.