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Nissan’s Marketing Boss Spanks His Ad Agency Group in Public

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Christian Meunier - Senior Vice President, Nissan Sales & Marketing and Operations, Nissan North America, Inc.; and Chairman, Nissan Canada

Christian Meunier – Senior Vice President, Nissan Sales & Marketing and Operations, Nissan North America, Inc.; and Chairman, Nissan Canada

Typically, when one starts at a new job, they might let some time pass before they really start letting heads roll just to give off the impression that they aren’t really such a tough sort. Not Christian Meunier. Meunier, who took over as the new Senior Vice President, Nissan Sales & Marketing in January, almost immediately lit into his company’s ad agency. And, by some accounts, it is a win-win decision.

Meunier spoke with Automotive News last week during the New York International Auto Show, where he publicly spanked Nissan’s United States ad group, Omnicom’s Nissan United, which includes TBWA and OMD.  Apparently, he didn’t like how they had been portraying the brand prior to his arrival. Not. One. Bit.


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“I was really upset with the agency in the beginning,” Meunier said. “I challenged them. I locked them in a room for a week in New York, and came back after a week, and it was still sh*t. I came back after two weeks and it was still sh*t. I said, ‘You guys better deliver something. You’d better come to Nashville next week with a plan that works.’ And they came back with a very good plan.”

Well, that’s one way of getting things done. One of Meunier’s largest complaints levied against Nissan’s advertising in North America is the perceived vagueness of the brand among American consumers.

“People don’t really know what Nissan is about. And that’s a problem,” he said.

The result of those weeks of discomfort behind closed doors is being tested on consumers and screened be dealers for approval, with May the anticipated launch for the new ad platform. Meunier was not specific, but he did say that Sentra, Altima, Rogue, Maxima, Pathfinder, and Murano would feature prominently.

What’s more, Forbes’ Will Burns points out that the decision to publicly shame Nissan United could benefit both the agency and the automaker in the long run: the agency keeps its enormous account instead of losing it, which is preferable even if it results in being called out in public; Nissan wins because it got, presumably, a better advertising campaign than it would have originally and doesn’t have to go through the time-consuming process of hunting down a new ad agency; and Meunier wins because he now has a definitive starting point for his regime that he can use to mark his effectiveness on the job.

Sometimes, it seems, being a hardass has its benefits.


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News Sources: Automotive News (subscription required), Forbes