Deconstruction Zone: Nissan Juke “Donut Action”

By Charles Krome

With the 2011 Nissan JUKE nearly ready to hit the street, Nissan has unveiled a new television commercial that aims to show customers exactly what they’re getting in this odd-looking vehicle. The answer? If you never actually looked at the JUKE itself, you might think the vehicle was a coming Miata fighter.

First off, the ad is titled “Donut Action,” which could describe the plot—a young exec gets a call in his JUKE and has to rush off to get “donuts” for a morning meeting—but it could also be a subtle nod to one of the country’s most popular winter-time driving activities for the younger crowd: Doing doughnuts in snow-covered parking lots.

Once our hero—”Kowalczyk”—gets the call (through the JUKE’s optional Bluetooth hands-free phone interface), he switches his JUKE over to “Sport” driving mode using Nissan’s new I-CON technology, and up pops a digital boost gauge. Then, with a whooshing of its turbocharger, the JUKE is off to the races. There’s a nice overhead shot that shows how compact and nimble the vehicle is—and shows off its moonroof—before the driver uses the JUKE’s nav system to turn up a doughnut shop. Those who are way too obsessive about such things (like me) will note that “Big House Donuts” is located on “5353 WEST CHIAT ST,” a reminder that ad agency Chiat/Day, located at 5353 Grosvenor in LA, is behind this work, and that the phone number for the doughnut shop is Nissan North America’s customer service number.

When the protagonist jumps through the Big House’s plate glass window, we then get a shout-out to the iconic film classic The Blues Brothers, except that Nissan has wisely avoided mentioning the deity here: Doughnut boy is on a mission; Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, of course, were on a mission from God.

After again highlighting the JUKE’s small proportions as it maneuvers into a parking spot, ol’ Kowalczyk races through the office (for some reason sans socks) and delivers the goods. And finally (because what goes better with a sporty car than sex?) the commercial ends with our hero exclaiming “bang!” then immediately shifting to a hot young businesswoman who purses her full lips just so.

The final tag line: “That’s right, we put a turbo in a sports cross.”

Oh, and did I mention the whole thing is set to Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries,” AKA “that classical music from Apocalypse Now“?

The bottom line here, as I mentioned before, is a commercial that seems to be all about an all-new sports car, not some kind of sporty crossover. There’s nothing in the spot about the vehicle’s cargo-carrying capabilities or higher seating position or anything else one would usually associate with a crossover. The only hint of the “c” word comes from calling the vehicle a “sports cross,” which is a construction that’s almost as ungainly as the JUKE itself. I mean, I can’t help but think a sports cross is something a priest would wear if he were involved in an athletic event.

My final verdict: It’s an effective commercial that works in some clever-ish pop culture references and shows off everything you need to know about the JUKE—except for the one thing that makes it really stand out from the crowd: Its exterior design.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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