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NASHVILLE — To bring college students into Nissan dealerships to look at the quirky new Cube, Nissan North America has asked for a little help — from college students.

Nissan has retained marketing classes at 10 large U.S. universities to create ad campaigns that will run on their campuses this spring. Nissan hopes the student ads will help generate interest among the 18- to 24-year-old consumers that the Cube is targeting.

"Nissan tends to have young demographics to start with, but the Cube is reaching into some unchartered territory for us," says Erich Marx, director of Nissan marketing. "This isn't just the usual product launch."

The Cube will go on sale May 5, priced under $14,000. But Nissan has been fanning interest in the boxy Scion-fighter since last June when it launched a Cube Web site. Since then Nissan has been direct-mailing brochures and interactive 3-D discs about the car and inviting customers to "reserve your Cube."

About 25,000 people have requested material, says Robert Brown, senior manager of marketing communications on the Cube program.

Nissan also has arranged for the Cube to be featured as part of the plot line in four episodes of the NBC TV series "Heroes," Marx says.

The college marketing campaigns will begin emerging at the end of April and run throughout this year's launch. The schools include the University of Georgia, Texas A&M, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pittsburgh and San Diego State.

Marx and Brown told their student helpers that Nissan would be especially pleased if they managed to tie local Nissan dealers into their campaigns. Other than that, the automaker is striving to stay out of the creative process.

"We don't want to influence them," Marx says. "We think we'll actually learn something from what they come up with."
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