Behind the Scenes – The Making of the “Nissan Pavilion”

18 February 2021

Behind the Scenes – The Making of the “Nissan Pavilion”

In our STORIES, we will be introducing some of our most celebrated creative works that are not only praised in Japan but also overseas and the behind-the-scenes stories!

The first and foremost work is “Nissan Pavilion,” one of the highlighted works of 2020.

In August 2020, the Nissan Pavilion opened in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai district for a limited period of time, closing the curtain on 23 October.
Artistic installations, immersive visuals played from a massive projection screen, virtual tennis game with Naomi Osaka, original animations, and a cafe with tables showing nutritional information on the food you order which is delivered by robots to your seat – it was a special place where anyone could experience how Nissan’s technology can revolutionize not only cars but also our lives.

TBWA\HAKUHODO has coordinated and spearheaded the creation of this entertainment facility that offered visitors a peek of Nissan’s vision of mobility and life of the near future.

We talked with Mr. Mori and Ms. Sugimoto of our Experiential Marketing Division who directed the project, about their thoughts on the Nissan Pavilion and the secret story of its creation.

Creating an entertainment facility the world has never seen

Q: The Nissan Pavilion was an entertainment facility that is completely different from a typical motor showroom. How did the idea of interactive pavilion come about?

Ms. Sugimoto (left) and Mr. Mori (right) of our Experiential Marketing Division

Ms. Sugimoto (left) and Mr. Mori (right) of our Experiential Marketing Division

Mori: The initial brief from Nissan was to create a pavilion to promote the Nissan brand to the world given an expected surge of global sports event-related tourism in 2020.

With the request, after extensive discussion with the client, we have concluded to create a completely new concept – an “entertainment” facility targeting “people who are not interested in cars” that would offer something new and exciting for a wide range of people, rather than an ordinary motor show showcasing the latest technology for “people who are passionate about cars.” Our team together with people from the client as well worked closely and stayed true to our concept throughout the project.
This challenge was also in line with the words of Nissan’s founder – “Do what others don’t dare to do” as well as the “Disruption®️” philosophy of TBWA\HAKUHODO.

Q. Stepping into the futuristic circular pavilion, visitors were first greeted by Japanese style garden. Inside, the newly unveiled ARIYA was driven through the pavilion, and Nissan’s flagship car, Fairlady Z was beautifully displayed like a modern art museum. Please tell us about the design process that created such an impressive facility.

Sugimoto: Among the many challenges that we have faced throughout the making process of the pavilion, the most worth mentioning was the design process. Usually, when creating an experience like this, contents are installed afterwards in a predetermined space. This time, however, we had to start by first creating the building itself. We needed to work on the architectural design and content creation in parallel, reflecting feedback from each part as we went along.

What we placed great importance on was to create a design for “optimized customer journey”. In the past, architecture and experiential content have tended to be thought separately, but this time we emphasized on increasing the value of the experience by integrating the two parts – designing the architecture based on the experience planning that would be best for the visitors.

Building a new-concept facility during pandemic era

Q. What were some of the challenges encountered during the creative process and how was it overcome?

Creative and design team meeting

Creative and design team meeting

Sugimoto: Due to the nature of being an entertainment facility that emphasizes the importance of “experiences”, one of the most difficult challenges of this project was that it was hard for clients or the members to imagine the experiential output without actually seeing and feeling it.

For example, there could be many different ways to present video streams – whether to show on a massive screen, or to show various images in 100 monitors lining up. But it was difficult to imagine what kind of space each method would create when actually implemented into the pavilion with only proposals and drawings. A breakthrough was to create an on-the-spot CG and VR experience during the meetings. As it is difficult to judge only with proposal decks, with the help of the Nissan design team, we strived to create a realistic experience as if we were actually walking through the pavilion to ensure that everyone was satisfied and convinced with the making process.

Q. The year 2020 has seen the spread of COVID-19, an event that no one saw coming. I assume a lot of changes of plan were inevitable. Can you tell us what impact and changes were made?

Mori: The impact of the pandemic was obviously a major challenge we faced in the course of this project. At one point we even considered downsizing the pavilion and focusing on creating a digital experience instead. Fortunately, however, the state of emergency was lifted and the project members including us and our client wanted people to come to the pavilion to witness and experience the future of life to the fullest. So we benchmarked infection control measurements of various facilities and devised an operational plan with thorough infection prevention measures. Thanks to all the preventive measures there was no single positive case reported among the visitors throughout the period.

A near future envisioned by Nissan

Q. One of the most impressive features of the Nissan Pavilion that attracted international attention was that the entire facility was ZERO EMISSION. How has this been achieved?

The EV parking lot at the Nissan Pavilion

The EV parking lot at the Nissan Pavilion

Sugimoto: The pavilion was also the world premiere of Nissan’s first crossover EV model, ARIYA. Thus when designing the facility we tried to convey the message that in the near future, EV will not just be a means of transportation but will expand the potential of people’s lives and cities.
This message was symbolically embodied in “NISSAN CHAYA CAFE”. Solar panels on the ceiling of the café generated electricity, which was then stored in the Nissan LEAF battery, installed in the garden, and used for lighting and other purposes inside the café – creating an eco-cycle for the energy use. This suggested how EVs can become a useful energy hub for many aspects of life.

Additionally, the pavilion’s EV parking lot was not like other parking spaces where you charge the EVs, but rather an innovative and counterintuitive system in which you supply electric power to the pavilion and get to park for free and receive a coupon for CHAYA Cafe. It was a place where visitors could symbolically experience the new idea of a near future that electric cars are not just a means of transportation, but could also have a “monetary value from the electricity it can produce”.

Q. What was the feedback received about the new Nissan Pavilion from the visitors?

Mori: As we initially had hoped, we saw a number of families, young couples and people who didn’t seem to have a deep interest in cars coming in and enjoying the facility. We have received comments such as “I could really experience the future,” “I enjoyed even though i have little interest in cars,” and “It’s a shame that this wonderful place is open only for a limited period” from visitors.

The response on social media has been great as well. We were truly delighted to see posts and comments from customers who have experienced the facility having high expectation and hope for the future created by Nissan’s technology innovation, including the ProPILOT waiter robot, as well as its automotive technology.

The ProPILOT waiter robot

The ProPILOT waiter robot

Q. Nissan Pavilion closed its grand curtain – but looking back on this project, what have you learned as an experiential marketing division?

Sugimoto: I think we were able to present a new way of “real life experience” in the post-COVID19 era. While many events were turning online, we focused on staying “real life.” We didn’t convert the pavilion content into VR and store it on the site, but kept the digital content to only stimulate interest. Instead, in order to relieve the psychological burden of the actual visitors, we took great care to communicate with them on a daily basis about crowded conditions or infection control measures, and to control the facility to prevent density.

The non-contact contents, such as ProPILOT waiter robot that brings food to the customers unattended, and the kinetic-response ARIYA TECH DISPLAY, were also very well-received by the media and led to many coverage articles. The fact that people could fully experience the future without touching things directly was highly evaluated.

The pavilion also played a part in the OMO (Online Merges with Offline) strategy of visualizing the activity log of visitors and measuring the impact of their visit.

It is expected that the future of experiential marketing will be even more important to improve the customer experience through the integration of online and offline activities. I firmly believe our experience and achievements from this pavilion have become a great benchmark not only for the experiential marketing team at TBWA\HAKUHODO but also to the industry as well.

A kinetic-response ARIYA TECH DISPLAY

A kinetic-response ARIYA TECH DISPLAY

Mori: I believe it was an excellent opportunity to present the new possibilities of experiential marketing. There were three main components to Nissan’s opening of a new chapter this Summer: the new logo, the new Nissan ARIYA, and this pavilion. By concentrating all three of these major releases at the same timing, we were able to make a powerful impact with the news of Nissan’s rebranding in July.

Changing the logo is a big deal but less impactful on its own. The launch of ARIYA alone could have been nothing more than a new car release announcement. However, by creating a space that unites them all with Nissan’s worldview of the future where people can actually feel and touch, the message we wanted to send out has become even stronger with much greater impact.

At this major transition point in Nissan’s branding, the fact that we were able to play a significant part in deepening people’s understanding of the Nissan brand through “real life experience” was very meaningful and reassuring for our team of our confidence on creativity and production capabilities.


On STORIES, we’ll continue to tell you behind the scenes stories of TH projects – so stay tuned!

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