Big-budget cinematic Nissan Patrol ad pits city against desert

By Austyn Allison

Nissan has launched its new television commercial for its flagship 4×4 Patrol. It is the first big ad TBWA/RAAD has done for the Japanese brand since 2014, and takes the form of a cinematic trailer. It cost in the region of $800,000 to produce, which executive creative director Fouad Abdel Malak said goes against current trends.

“What’s happening in a time of recession is everyone is doing feature, feature, feature… How many features can I squeeze into 60 seconds or 45 seconds? How many nationalities can I squeeze in?”

The Patrol ad is defiantly not feature-led, or even lifestyle-led. “Have you noticed there are no people in the car?” asked Malak. “You don’t see who is driving it. And there’s no lifestyle, there are no families.”

The ad is based around what it calls  “an epic battle” between the desert and the city.

“It is symbolic of how the cities are expanding and infringing on the lifestyle and traditions of the nomads and the people of the desert,” said Malak.

The Patrol is portrayed in line with Nissan’s global marketing platform ‘Hero’. The ending shot is of the car driving between warring territories of city and sand, with the tagline: “Take no sides.”

Dutch studio Ambassadors took three months finishing post-production, and Malak said the costume design helps the ad resonate on a cultural level as well as a brand level.

“I’m sick of potraying locals as backward Bedouins wearing their thobes and either living in a tent or having a pretentious lifestyle,” he said. “So when we resurrected Mandy [Kingsley, the stylist] from retirement, my brief to her was how do we get a kind of Burning-Man-for-the-Gulf look? With extra Mad Max. Without being offensive, but still culturally cool.”

Malak added that he used cinema to pitch the idea to Nissan: “I showed them scenes from moies. I showed them scenes from Lord of the Rings, scenes from Bladerunner, and that’s how I sold the script,” he said.

“I said this is what we must aim at. We are competing with the movie industry; we are not competing with the ad industry.”