Omnicom plans 'United' group to service automaker

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN: Omnicom Group has created a multidisciplinary agency team - known as Nissan United -- as part of a new multiyear agreement with the Japanese automaker.

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN: Omnicom Group has created a multidisciplinary agency team - known as Nissan United - as part of a new multiyear agreement with the Japanese automaker.

Emanate will handle communications as part of the integrated New York-based agency team. Omnicom creative shop TBWA, media firm OMD, branding agency Interbrand, and Japanese ad agency Hakuhodo will fill out the alliance. Specific financial details of the arrangement were not disclosed.

The combined agency group is different than Nissan's previous arrangement with Omnicom in that the automaker used to have individual relationships with various agencies within the holding company, with its in-house team coordinating direction. The new agreement was formed, in part, to develop an overall direction for messaging, creativity, and investments.

“Within the structure, there is room for various agencies to be managed by Nissan United (also non-Omnicom [firms]) to make sure we get the best quality and value,” says Roel de Vries, Nissan's CVP of global marketing, brand, and communications, via email. “There is no fixed agreement with one specific firm because of this deal.”

Four key functions will take precedent within the new arrangement: brand engineering, content and creative direction, investment, and integration. One executive will lead each at Nissan United. Support areas like production cost management and technical digital expertise will also be vital to the new structure.

The team will include Jon Castle as president of Nissan United; Rob Schwartz as content and creative executive; Scott Tegetthof as investment lead; Daniel Binns as head of brand engineering; and Kiersten Zweibaum, as Emanate executive providing PR and communications expertise.

The three year contract began at the start of Nissan's fiscal year on April 1.

Since April, Nissan CVP of global marketing communications Simon Sproule has led marketing communications for the Renault-Nissan alliance. In this role, he has responsibility for ensuring both companies are getting the best service from their agency partners and driving synergies and best practices across the alliance. Meanwhile, de Vries has direct responsibility for the Nissan-Omnicom appointment and relationship, and he will lead the management of the account across Nissan.

Additionally, there will be an executive quarterly review with CEOs of key agencies, such as Tom Carroll, president and CEO of TBWA Worldwide; Mainardo de Nardis, CEO of OMD; and Jez Frampton, CEO of Interbrand.

“The main breakthrough to me is to create a more agency-agnostic group that will manage our communication and brand improvement,” said de Vries. “By having the four individual executives with different backgrounds and perspectives, we create better debates and solutions that are truly incorporated and all-inclusive.”

The formation of the Omnicom team and the announcement of a multiyear deal between Nissan and the holding company comes more than two months after Omnicom and rival Publicis Groupe said they are planning to merge, creating a $23 billion marketing services umbrella group.

While industry experts pointed out at the time that the mega-merger was bound to create conflicts among major clients of the newly formed Publicis Omnicom Group, Nissan CVP of global marketing communications Simon Sproule dismissed those concerns

He said at the time that “you can't avoid having more than one brand from the same industry vertical in the same holding company these days.”

“There is no agency out there of any decent size that doesn't have a relationship with one or more brands from the same industry vertical, whether it's tech, pharma, automotive, or whatever,” he said. Sproule added that Renault-Nissan would be the largest client of the proposed Publicis Omnicom Group.

Brand-specific teams made up of top personnel from a holding company's agencies have become more common in recent years, specifically for auto clients. WPP Group created Team Detroit to work with Ford in 2007 and spun off Team Lincoln from that unit two years ago. WPP has also created alliances for Colgate-Palmolive, MillerCoors, and InterContinental Hotels Group.

This story was updated on October 4 with additional information from Nissan executives. 

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