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Hot Wheels

A radical campaign burns up city streets.

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A parking meter has lost its top, its coins spilling to the ground in a pool of molten metal; a charred bike hugs a parking sign; a melted lamppost has slumped over. Evidence of an alien touch-down? No, ads for Nissan Maxima.

For the last two weeks, the True advertising agency staged a kind of interactive street theater on the corner of Houston and Lafayette, then Third and 13th, then West Broadway and Grand. Recessed in a prop wall opposite the Dalí-esque pieces of bent steel was the supposed cause of the damage: a Maxima. As one passerby told a friend, “Girl, can’t you see it? The car is so hot it burned through the wall!” Propmaster Daryll Merchant laughs: “She was explaining our concept exactly.”

Christopher Davis, True’s executive creative director, says the Nissan “Hotness” campaign is simple: “Hotness. Just the idea of hotness. People don’t say ‘cool’ anymore. It’s almost uncool to. ‘Hot’ is the vernacular.”

Cool or hot, the pieces are striking. Each site is a parking lot whose fences were removed, temporarily, to make way for the car-ravaged wall (with built-in steam machine), which was watched by two security guards. Every four days, at 5:30 A.M., a crew deconstructed the ad and put it in a new location, pouring concrete into holes left from bolting the props down.

The street campaign ended last week (print and TV ads continue), and though True can’t determine its effect on sales, response was strong. Merchant says one bus driver pulled over his bus—“with people in it!”—to take a picture. Someone else called 911. But perhaps the best compliment came from a passerby who remarked—without any prompting—“Wow, that is hot!”


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