Nissan’s all-electric Leaf is probably not the kind of car which you or I would choose to buy. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t look particularly cool, tops out at only 90mph and every 100 miles it needs plugged in for a 30 minute recharge.

And at £25,990 (including the £5,000 government subsidy) I can already hear the expletives raining down on Nissan’s Maple Cross UK HQ, as you realise a Renaultsport Megane 265 Cup could be tucked away in your garage for around the same price.

So with that being the case, how on earth are Nissan planning on selling a car that on the face of it is too expensive, too slow and too impractical to use every day?

Changing people’s perceptions

When I spoke with the team at Nissan GB, the message which came across loud and clear is they need to change people’s perceptions about electric cars.

Over the course of our discussion they made a pretty convincing case for three out of the four objections I raised – although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so we agreed to differ on the Leaf’s looks – but Nissan has taken a long hard look at the way people actually ‘use’ their cars and are convinced the Leaf makes sense for a significant number of us.

* * *

That’s where Nissan’s latest digital campaign – The Big Turn On – comes into play together with the services of Britain’s Got Talent judge and singer/songwriter Alesha Dixon, comedian Marcus Brigstocke, actress Gilian Anderson, comedian Hugh Dennis and designer Wayne Hemingway.

Nissan has set out to turn people on to the low-carbon benefits of electric vehicles, but rather than launching their brand ambassadors in a celebrity-fuelled charm offensive, they’ve recognised the need to get people like you and I to actually ‘drive’ an all-electric car, hence this ambitious 100-day campaign which aims to ‘switch on’ 1 million consumers and provide 24 hour test drives to let drivers experience the Leaf for themselves.

Any other reasons to get involved?

Well if Nissan can’t tempt you with the sultry tones of Miss Dixon, then they reckon an alternative route to a driver’s heart is by offering some free swag, so they’re offering 14 New Apple iPads for each competing nation, plus the grand prize of a Nissan Leaf for the overall winner of The Big Turn On game.

If you’d like to enter and compete for the remaining prizes, visit Nissan’s special microsite in the video above.

So how is the campaign going?

It looks like the celebrity part of the campaign has lacked the necessary spark – according to Nissan’s data (as of 20/6/2012) just 17 people have turned on to Alesha, 15 to Marcus, 13 to Gilian, 6 to Hugh and just 3 to Wayne.

This is not particularly surprising in a non-broadcast medium. Celebrity endorsements rarely gain traction within social media campaigns – people tend to prefer promoting quirky unknowns (people like themselves) rather than add to the already bloated ego of a music, film or TV star.

The value of a celebrity in the context of a campaign such as this is to raise its profile and attract those curious to see what the noise is all about.

The good news for Nissan is after 84 days, the number of people who’ve visited the site and registered stands at 993,618 – so exceeding their 1 million consumers target should be easily done in the remaining 16 days.

Is it worth me taking a look?

There are several reasons why we, as car enthusiasts, could benefit from taking part in Nissan’s ‘Big Turn On’ game.

Even though it might seem at first rather like Turkey’s voting for Christmas, Nissan and other early adopters are investing to build the charging infrastructure in cities across Europe.

Should you be fortunate enough to buy a BMW i8, Porsche 918 Spyder or perhaps a future plug-in/hybrid Nissan GT-R, then you’ll be grateful that a million Nissan Leaf owners were kind enough to join the electric club ahead of you.

By voting for your city when registering for the game, Nissan will use this information to prioritise their own plans. By the end of 2012, the company will have given away over 400 quick chargers to local authorities and partners with the ultimate aim of developing a network of thousands of chargers and creating a number of Electric Highways to link cities across Europe.

So, for many people taking part, this is all about voting with their keyboard for charging stations to be located near to their homes and businesses. Who said environmentalists have to be un-selfish..?

The other reason, and the main message conveyed in the Alesha Dixon video, is the convenience and allure of ‘guilt free driving’. Perhaps in future many more of us will own city cars, powered by electricity, with our higher-performance fuel/hybrid cars the choice for longer journeys, countryside blasts and trackdays.

Nissan’s plan seems less about forcing us out of our beloved fuel burners and more about providing an alternative choice. I can buy that argument, as long as we’re still able to vaporise a tank of unleaded, when the open road and our multi-valve engines allow.

* * *

The Big Turn On Hits one million ahead of target

UPDATE – 22nd June, 2012

Nissan’s initial plan was to reach the one million mark in 100 days… but the campaign reached this milestone on Thursday 21st June, 15 days ahead of schedule.

As well as encouraging drivers from France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK to take a closer look at zero-emission driving, the city with the most drivers turned on to electric vehicles will be given 30 Nissan Quick Chargers, while the individual who encourages the most people to turn on will win a Nissan LEAF.

These CHAdeMO standard Quick Chargers are among 400 that Nissan plans to donate to cities across Europe by the end of FY2012, to speed up infrastructure development. The first Nissan Quick Chargers have already been installed in the Netherlands and France.

* * *

Disclosure: This article is sponsored in part by Nissan, however all views expressed within are entirely our own. Sponsored articles are accepted at our own discretion and only where we believe such focus or analysis will benefit our readers. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this article further, then please get in touch via email or using the contact tab on this page.