Nissan North America vp-marketing Jan Thompson this week censured America's auto industry for its timidity toward new media.

In her address Wednesday to the Automotive News Marketing Seminar in Los Angeles, Thompson criticized her peers for adopting "a less risky approach to marketing", charging that this has created a significant disparity between where their advertising dollars are spent and where consumer actaually peruse media.

Nissan, Thompson revealed, has forged closer ties with the likes of Yahoo, MSN and Google and views them as "networks in their own rights, able to deliver audiences comparable to prime time [TV]".

That fact, she said, appears to have escaped automakers - which is why the sector now accounts for a "shocking" 25%, or $17 billion (€13.25bn; £9.08bn) of total US annual adspend.

Auto adspend over the past two decades had mushroomed because automakers "were having a hard time figuring out the right way to send the right message to the right person at the right time."

This, she argued, had led the industry to take the safe route, using a combination of old media carpet bombing plus incremental spending for new-media tactics. Over the past twenty years, automotive adspend had rocketed by 1,378%; whilst new vehicles sales had grown by a mere 17%.

In another statistic [that seemingly backfired on her] Thompson cited the industry-average marketing cost for each new vehicle sold. In the last two decades this had grown by a factor of twenty - from $50 to $1,000.

What she didn't tell her listeners, however, was that in 2005 - according to publicly available statistics - Nissan performed little better than the industry average: spending $950 in measured media per unit sold. This interesting if inconvenient fact was revealed by Advertising Age in its report on Thompson's speech.

Thompson urged her audience to adopt what she called "transformational marketing". This includes frequent measurement of the impact and mix of communications; adapting faster to things that measurement shows aren't working; and getting rid of silos at ad agencies, media outlets and in client organizations.

"Enjoy the revolution," she exhorted her audience, "because we are all at the center of it."

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff