Who is that old guy in all of the new nissan commercials anyway? And what's up with the old guy baseball hat and the Ben Franklin specs? hmm.. just wonderin'... Oh yeah, and what's so special about the damn Altima? please let me know.

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Who is the Nissan guy (Mr. K) on the commercials?

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 13 -- For a year now, Americans have been mesmerized by a magical character and his life affirming messages: "Drive happy." "Have fun." "Smile." "Enjoy the ride." In that time, Nissan has been recognized as a pioneer in car advertising, breaking the mold of traditional automotive advertising into commercials that consumers really want to watch --zap-proof ads that tell a story. "Our research showed that people hated automobile ads. Our challenge has been to design advertising that defies the status quo while communicating what we stand for," said Tom Orbe, vice president of marketing, Nissan Division. "Our customers tell us over and over that they love the campaign and, most especially, our magical man." Since the brand campaign debuted last August, likeability of Nissan advertising has increased 114 percent among intenders (people who intend to purchase a vehicle in the next two years) and the ads have generated a 75 percent gain in top-of-mind awareness(1). This makes Nissan advertising the best-liked automotive ads at nearly twice the rate of its closest competitor, Saturn. Consumers everywhere have come to associate the mystical Japanese character from the ads, a.k.a "Mr. K," with both the Nissan brand and the unique commercials. In fact, recent research findings show that Mr. K, after just one year of appearing in the ads, has emerged as a popular icon. A national study conducted for Nissan revealed that 55 percent of 1,127 people surveyed nationwide recognized Mr. K on an unbranded photograph, and of those, 78 percent directly linked him to the Nissan brand(2). Correlating with the success of the Nissan advertising campaign are the calendar year-to-date sales figures, which have been up every month for the first six months of 1997 versus CY96.

Blending Brand and Product
Continuing with the brand campaign's benchmark approach, the launch of the new '98 Altima this summer represents the company's first new product to be introduced under the award-winning "Enjoy the ride." umbrella. As with the brand campaign, Mr. K appears in each of the commercials -- this time offering up an ever-present query, "Have you seen it?" "The `Enjoy the ride.' campaign has been building up to the Altima launch, setting the stage for blending product and brand into one campaign," said Orbe. "Between now and the year 2000, we will be introducing a new model on average every six months. And, the brand awareness that the campaign has
generated for Nissan sets a strong foundation for future product introductions."

Built on Heritage
The groundbreaking campaign, which was created by TBWA Chiat/Day, launched in August 1996, has changed the face of automobile advertising. Communicating the joy of driving a Nissan in an entertaining and informative format, the campaign includes the mystical character "Mr. K" (loosely based on Yutaka Katayama who started Nissan's sales operation in the United States when vehicles were sold under the Datsun name), who brings magic and joy wherever he appears. Evoking a sense of fun, Nissan's year-old brand campaign breaks through the clutter of today's car ads and shows just how much fun Nissan models are to own and drive. From unique storytelling viewpoints -- through the eyes of  dogs, dolls and pigeons Nissan speaks "automotive" in a way that informs as much as it delights consumers. Nissan's "Enjoy the ride," campaign has created a stir among the public, the media and competitors over the past year with ads like "Dream Garage," "Toys," "Pigeons" and "Doggie Mind Control." It was not surprising that the campaign was awarded several honors in its inaugural year, including:

* Association of Independent Commercial Producers awards
* 1997 International Automotive Advertising Award
* 1997 Gold Cleo in Animation category and Bronze Cleo in Automotive category
* AdAge "The Best Award" for "Toys"
* Time magazine "#1 Commercial" for "Toys"
* Rolling Stone magazine "Best Commercial" for "Toys"
* Entertainment Weekly magazine's "Top 50 Commercials" for "Toys"
* President and CEO of Nissan Motor Corporation U.S.A., Bob Thomas, recognized in Automotive News as an Advertising All-Star

In North America, Nissan's operations include styling, engineering, manufacturing, sales, consumer and corporate finance, and industrial and textile equipment. Nissan in North America employs more than 20,000 people
in the United States, Canada and Mexico and generates more than 70,000 jobs through its 1,500 Nissan and Infiniti dealerships across the continent. More information on Nissan in North America and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online at http://www.nissan-na.com.
(1) Source: Diagnostic Research -- Advertising Tracking Study
(2) Source: Quick Test, Inc. research for Nissan Motor Corporation USA.

SOURCE Nissan Motor Corporation U.S.A.