A good advertising campaign can establish a brand identity that’ll last long after the TV is turned off. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Whether we’re watching the big game or just flicking on the TV to relax after a day of wrenching, it’s always fun to spot commercials teasing the latest cars and trucks.

And while most major auto manufacturers have created plenty of TV commercials, we recall one in particular: Nissan.

Not too long ago, Nissan was a pretty big deal. The auto maker was the hip alternative to its Japanese rivals Toyota and Honda—thanks in large part to its clever and memorable TV spots.

Want to see why? Let’s run down five of the best examples.

5) “Enjoy the Ride” 1996

Here, a young boy discovers an underground treasure trove of classic Nissans, curated by a mythical “Mr. K.” But here’s a cool Easter Egg: though played by an actor, Mr. K. is based on Yutaka Katayama, the first president of Nissan Motors U.S.A., and regarded as the “Father of the Z.” Mr. K. embodied the spirit of Nissan’s youthful exuberance at the time, and would be a recurring character throughout its “Enjoy the Ride” campaign.


4) “The Dreamer” 1990

Want to make a good commercial? Hire Ridley Scott (the guy behind Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and a host of other acclaimed movies) to direct it. Oh, and he also made arguably the greatest TV commercial of all time, Apple’s 1984. This ad for the Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo falls right in with that lineage, and could easily be mistaken for a big-budget movie trailer.


3) “Pigeons” 1997

Honestly, this one had us the minute we heard “Danger Zone.” But throw in clever callsigns like “Dirty Bird” and “Sky Rat,” and Nissan’s put out another winner here. Pay attention at the end and you’ll see another Mr. K. cameo.

2) “With Dad” 2015

Proving it wasn’t all for laughs, Nissan hit us right in the feels during this spot. That’s easy to do, of course, when you toss Harry Chapin in the mix. Now if you’ll excuse us…we…have…something…in….our….eyes………

1) “Toys” 1997

Yup. This is it. An absolute clinic in how to market to a maturing demographic. Part nostalgia, part excitement, and all totally memorable. This spot got seared into the minds of teenagers aspiring for their first cars and perhaps cultivated a lot of brand loyalty in the process. Van Halen’s cover of “You Really Got Me” is just icing on the cake here.


Bonus! Nissan Pathfinder’s Version

While a lot of us remember the 300zx “Toys” spot above, did you know that there was another one for the Nissan Pathfinder. Fun fact: Mattel actually sued Nissan because it felt the toys used in the ads had a striking resemblance to, ahem, a certain pair of toy lines it owned.


So, does that cement Nissan as the automotive world’s best TV advertiser? Let us know some of your favorites in the comments below.

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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in 1972 Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.