TBWA\Chiat\Day Builds Agency to Pitch Nissan

By Andrew McMains

NEW YORK -- Nissan North America's search for an agency to handle African American advertising for Nissan and Infiniti is expected to conclude this week.

Among the contenders is a new shop aligned with Nissan's lead U.S. agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day, sources said.

Without expertise in urban marketing, TBWA\C\D sought the services of other, traditional multicultural ad agencies.

TBWA\C\D initially sought help from within parent company Omnicom Group. But the most logical choice, the PASS urban marketing unit of Arnell Group, handles Chrysler and is pursuing that automaker's $50 million multicultural account. (That review has been put on hold; see Newswire, page 20.)

In the end, the agency decided to partner and build on a group called True, whose principals hail from various sectors, including advertising, publishing and music.

The key players in True are: Christopher Davis, a former art director at MTV; Richard Wayner, CEO of urban culture magazine Trace; Claude Grunitzky, Trace's editor-in-chief; and Steven Mark Klein, the magazine's one-time executive director, said sources. (When Trace first launched in London in 1995, it was called True.)

Should the new entity fail to secure the Nissan assignment, the True group and TBWA\C\D may still proceed with their new relationship under the working title of True\TBWA, sources said. The agency declined comment.

The Nissan account is described as "multicultural," but the target audience is more broadly defined as young, hip city-dwellers. Two of the key decision-makers are Jon Cropper, senior manager, youth and urban communications, and Steve Wilhite, vp, marketing, said sources. Wilhite, a former marketing exec at both Apple and Volkswagen, joined the automaker in December.

The account was handled by Carol H. Williams Advertising in Oakland, Calif., which resigned the business in January. Other contenders could not be determined.

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