Monday, August 27, 2007

This City Is Brought To You By Nissan

In an example of branding taken to the extreme, MediaPost is reporting that Nissan, in conjunction with Clear Channel's Branded Cities, has struck a deal to make their line of automobiles the official ones endorsed by Westgate City Center, an $850 million development near Glendale, Arizona.

According to the article: "Clear Channel's Branded Cities model for Westgate goes far beyond billboards, per Dan Jasper, vice president of Clear Channel Branded Cities. He says Nissan's two-year category-exclusive venture includes signage on three 100-foot tall Times Square-style media boards, and a live events package that gives Nissan the right to host test drives at 10-concert "Nissan Concert Series," starting this month with a show by rock band Great White."

It's out-of-home advertising on steroids.

The article also points out that Nissan is actually the second company, after Qwest, to strike up this kind of deal with the city. This means the gates are open and that more companies can, and most likely will, join in.

The idea of brands staking claim to large cross-sections of particular populations is nothing new (companies like Pepsi and Coca Cola branding universities as their own is one instance), but this deal belongs in a category of its own. To think about what this type of extreme advertisement can eventually lead to is mind boggling for any advertiser looking to re-enforce a brand in a sweeping way. How long before Starbucks becomes the official coffee of Manhattan (yes, I know, you could probably argue that it already is) or McDonald's becomes the official fast-food restaurant of Las Vegas? What's to stop major metropolitan areas from raking in some serious cash from ventures like this?

It'll be interesting to be see how the people who decide to live in the development react. Either they'll feel like they are living in a gigantic commercial or they'll just kind of roll with it as just a natural extension of large-scale branding already taking place. Or maybe they'll even see some benefit from living in a sponsored community.

This move presents a very lucrative opportunity for OOH advertising, as it offers to bring the dazzle and panache of Times Square to many smaller market that wouldn't have been able to pull off such a spectacle otherwise. It will be particularly interesting to see how rural and suburban folks react as the bright lights and big ads move out of their traditional homes in the cities, where for some they were actually a tourist attraction.

Ultimately, I believe that the key factor for advertisers and media planners/buyers looking to invest in this nascent trend will be to figure out whether the broad approach of "sponsoring" an entire city or development is worth it. At this point, though, it could still go either way: citizens might eventually reject Nissan because of over-exposure, or living in a branded community might become a status symbol. Only time will tell.

Tags: out-of-home advertising, branding

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