Infiniti to Try Offbeat Ads to Attract Upscale Buyers

Times Staff Writer

It might seem obvious to show a car in a car ad.

But not to the advertising honchos at Nissan’s new luxury car division, Infiniti. In an ad campaign that breaks Monday--and that will run for two weeks during the new vehicle’s launch--no cars will be seen in any of the commercials.

There will not be any music, either. And for that matter, no people. The TV ads will simply feature outdoor settings--with scenes of pastoral things including flying geese and rainstorms--while an unseen narrator quietly talks in near-cosmic terms about the new car line.

“Just about all the other car makers are blasting, ‘Here’s our car, come get it!’ ” said William R. Bruce, vice president and general manager of Infiniti. “But the people who buy our cars don’t want to be insulted with pressure tactics or hard sell.”


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Aiming for the upscale audience, the ads will premiere on CBS during the U.S. Open Tennis Championship, of which Infiniti is a sponsor. After several weeks, the company will also begin to air ads that show the cars.

The initial lineup of commercials is very similar to Infiniti’s print advertising campaign, which broke in trade magazines several months ago. Those ads also show natural settings instead of vehicles.

Behind this unusual ad campaign is the Los Angeles office of the Boston ad agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, which is well known for creating offbeat ads. This is the same firm that created those jarring and jargonistic computer ads for Wang Laboratories that confused and upset some viewers but intrigued others.

The campaign follows on the heels of a far more conventional ad strategy developed by El Segundo-based Team One Advertising for Toyota’s new luxury car division, Lexus. “The approach we’ve taken is very traditional, and theirs is very non-traditional,” said Robert Neuman, national marketing operations manager at Lexus. “Right, wrong or indifferent, the consumer will vote on whose is best.”

Infiniti, however, is not the first car maker to show little of the product in its ads. Two years ago, Sterling commercials mostly featured successful people talking about how they made it but only showed fleeting glimpses of the vehicles. Although that campaign didn’t do much to boost Sterling sales, some observers say the Infiniti campaign might hit the bull’s-eye.

“It could be a highly effective way to tweak the imagination of that part of the public that has $35,000 to $40,000 to spend on a car,” said Vic Olesen, president of Vic Olesen & Partners, the Los Angeles agency that creates West Coast ads for Chevrolet. “They’ve got to do something different,” said Olesen. “After all, they’re coming in after Lexus.”