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When Allyson Witherspoon landed Nissan North America’s top marketing job in March, long-term partner Omnicom got to work refurbing its existing client unit into a veritable Nissan United 2.0 – an integrated shop that works across product verticals, not media channels.  

Witherspoon was such a fan of the set-up that she replicated it internally – now, that model is spreading to other markets.

Nissan United, the Omnicom unit set up in 2013, always had the agency pieces in place to handle Nissan’s North American marketing in an integrated manner.

But it was the departure of client Jeremy Tucker and subsequent arrival of the new vice-president of marcomms and media, Allyson Witherspoon, this April that ushered in a new, faster era of working.

Witherspoon, who landed at the Nashville HQ fresh from two years on Nissan’s global team in Japan, quickly took the decision to "collapse" the silos within the agency team and change up the Nissan United way of working.

In the last six months she has deconstructed the agency channels and merged staff from specialized shops into “cluster teams” based upon Nissan’s product line-up.

These categories include SUVs and trucks, and sedans and electric vehicles.

“There are multiple [marketing] disciplines underneath each one of those channels,” she explained. “So, when we give them a brief for, say, the Altima, [the work] is across everything – tier one, tier two, digital banners, the website, the TV spot...

“We’re collapsing media and creative ... that's actually what’s enabled us to get to work much faster.”

Speed is of the essence for Witherspoon. She arrived at a time when Nissan sales had been falling in the market and a revamped leadership team had just been installed.

Now, with double-figure revenue targets to hit, she has a new launch or product announcement to make every quarter for the next 18 months as the brand moves further into the electric space.

So far, Nissan United’s consolidated approach to marketing and media has turned around a multitude of campaigns since May. Buoyed by this “success, speed and ... consumer-centered approach”, Witherspoon has taken the model of Nissan United and replicated it in her own internal team.

“We've now also collapsed media and creative,” she said. “Now we're also operating in these segment-specific cluster teams.

“It means you don't have separate [channels] fighting for budgets.”

Optimizing production

Witherspoon’s internal team is particularly focused on marketing insights. They have access to an analytics tool called Incide, which pools data on consumer media behaviors, and are responsible for the swathe of research (such as focus groups and communication testing) that informs the audience segmentation used by the cluster teams.

They also analyze ongoing performance for campaigns in each product line-up. And because the new model has “completely changed” the production process, it’s now much easier for Witherspoon’s teams to tweak campaigns in real time, as creative produced for all media platforms and audience segments get filmed and delivered at roughly the same time.

“We’re making sure we're maximizing all of our production opportunities,” she explained. “[That means] combining or optimizing all of our video shoots, no longer is it that TV shoots over there, and digital shoots over there.

“[We ask]: what are the formats that we need to produce for, and then how do we get all of that into one production or into a handful of productions versus several productions over several different months?"

Off the back of the North American restructure, the marketing model is now being rolled out into other markets, too.

“Speaking with some of the global teams, it sounds like the US is probably one of the further along, especially in the agency-driven view –  the way that we structured the agency teams around our model segments and then the speed of how we're able to get the work through,” Witherspoon said.

“We've been just full force trying to get everything going here ... It's not all roses all the time. It's a lot of hard work. We need to be making quick decisions. But we're doing it, and we're operating as a team, which has been really great to see.”