Nissan makes a four-hour YouTube advert - and people watch it

And people are actually watching it…
Nissan makes a four-hour YouTube advert - and people watch it

Neil Briscoe

Generally speaking, when an advert pops up on YouTube, you’re waiting with finger poised for the ‘skip ad’ button to appear so that you can get on watching what you actually want to watch. It’s become almost a reflex action for regular YouTube viewers.

Nissan is challenging that reflex with a new online advert for its Ariya electric crossover, which last for - wait for it - four hours. Four. Hours. And eight minutes, if we’re being precise.

You’d think that a realisation that a four-hour-long advertisement is kicking off would be causing knuckle-spasms in people’s skip-clicking fingers, but astonishingly it’s not. In fact, this advert (double-feature would be more like it, going by the running time) has been viewed more than 17 million times already.

That’s despite the fact that almost nothing happens in the entire four-hour runtime.

Lofi music

That, in fact, is the secret sauce of the advert. Indeed, you’d hardly know that it’s anything to do with the Nissan Ariya, unless you’re a colossal car nerd who can spot and recognise the dashboard layout, or you twig one of the Ariya billboards that whizzes by in the advert’s animated background.

All that really happens in the ad is that a woman, casually drumming one finger on the rim of the steering wheel, drives her Ariya in a straight line while LoFi music plays over the footage.

LoFi is a musical genre that first emerged in the early 2000s, and which mixes jazz, hip-hop, and pop elements to create a fuzzy, dreamy, relaxing sound. It’s been a major part of the success of the animated LoFi Girl YouTube channel, a major influence on the design and style of this Nissan ad.

In the background, while the roadside barrier endlessly unfurls, a few things do happen. Mountains come and go, as do trees and occaasional buildings.

The sky changes colour from a greeny-blue sunrise, to a deep yellow midday, to purply evening and dark orange sunset. At one point, a tunnel with strobing yellow lights is driven through.

At times, Japanese pop-culture characters can be seen in the background — towering giants that are clearly meant to be copyright-friendly nods of the animated hat to Gundam robots and Godzilla.


And all the time, Nissan’s answer to the LoFi Girl just taps her finger to the tunes, while the breeze coming in through the open window ruffles her hair. She never even takes a sip from the reusable water bottle placed prominently at her side. It’s all incredibly zen, and possibly the most low-key and relaxing car advertisement of all time.

The Mayda Creative Company helped Nissan design and make the ad, and said: “We loved the invitation to be playful and include various ‘easter egg’ moments throughout the film, to pay artistic homage to the Japanese-inspired culture of the world we created.

Speaking to Marketingbrew, Allyson Witherspoon, global chief marketing officer of Nissan said that the whole point of the advert is to reflect the quiet, laid-back driving experience that the Ariya offers.

“We know that we knew that we wanted it to take place inside the vehicle,” she said. “We wanted it to be something that could be engaging where you have different scenery that’s passed you in the background. When you see consumers start to search for you natively, that’s when you know that what you have going on is starting to work.”

It seems that YouTube viewers really are staying and watching. The advert has racked up more than a million cumulative viewing hours now, and the comments below (never read the comments, but still…) include the likes of: “At first, I was like? ‘Is this really a 4-hour ad?’ Then I was like, ‘Damn, this beat is fire’” and “This might be the first-ever ad (and longest) that I didn't want to skip.”

Maybe this Nissan ad proves that what we actually want from advertising isn’t bombastic pricing announcements and Hollywood thrills — we just want to relax and listen to some good tunes.

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