Q&A: Cadillac Is Defining Luxury On Its Own Terms


Marketers at General Motors' luxury division hope that what viewers take away from its new brand campaign (featuring the mellifluous voiceover talents of actor Laurence Fishburne) is that Cadillac is for people with blood in their veins instead of, say, Cognac.

The division launched a new campaign on the Rose Bowl game telecast on New Year's Day. The effort leads with an anthem spot that presents Cadillac as a crimson contradistinction to "blue blood" luxury embodied in the ad by an affluent although desiccated couple at opposite sides of a dining table.

The initial salvo also includes a spot for CTS Coupe focused on the vehicle's arrow-like design. The ads use the "New Standard of the World" tagline by Fallon, which replaced Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, as Cadillac AOR last year. Don Butler, VP of marketing for the GM luxury division, talks to Marketing Daily about the campaign and where Cadillac is going.




Q: What does this new ad effort say about how Cadillac defines luxury?

A: The idea is to sort of tell a story in a visually interesting and entertaining way that isn't just "we have 560 horsepower and our car's really great." "Derivative of Nothing" and "Never leaving well enough alone" are key ideas we hope to communicate with that. It's excellence on our own terms, setting our own standard -- that's what we are trying to convey. That's why we say, "We don't just build luxury cars, we build Cadillacs." We are passionate, emotionally engaged, confident -- but not arrogant.

Q: Laurence Fishburne has the right voice for Cadillac now because ...

A: We want all of our advertising to be compelling -- to tell a story -- so we knew a voice would be the right anchor to deliver that. We had a number of considerations we were looking at. If you think about Cadillac and what we embody -- doing things our own way, in a way that has a little swagger but not overbearingly so -- Fishburne makes a lot of sense for us. He's got a "cinematic" voice -- he's a trained actor who uses his voice to connote a certain sense of feeling and emotion. Having that kind of voice elevates the presence and feel of the spot. The spot itself could almost be a movie trailer. It's to elevate Cadillac with exhilaration and acceleration, if you will.

Q: What does the media strategy look like for this campaign?

A: We were on all the BCS [Bowl Championship Series] properties and will be in the championship game as well. Then we go into prime-time rotation for the balance of the first quarter on high-profile, high-index shows.

Q: Besides the Anthem spot and the Arrows spot, will there be other TV creative?

A: There will be an additional CTS Sedan spot that will debut on the Golden Globes on Jan. 16, and then we will have an ad for the SRX as well that will be in the late-January, or early-February time frame.

Q: Are the ads principally running via national ad buys or is there a spot-market strategy?

A: Besides prime, we really do a fairly strategic approach in terms of leveraging targeted cable buys. For example, for CTS Coupe, 4% of ZIP codes within the U.S. account for 40% of luxury coupe sales. So we have the ability to target down to a ZIP code level in terms of media placement. So we have both a broad, national, foundational approach and targeted regional that "plus-up" in those key segments, in key markets for us that index highly on a vehicle-segment basis.

Q: How about other media platforms?

A: The campaign is a comprehensive marketing suite, so there is new print creative as well in a number of high-profile titles that debuted at the tail end of last year. Lots of unique outdoor applications; for example, in Times Square -- on the NASDAQ board -- and then across the street. These are dynamic, moving elements, not just pretty pictures of the car. And then we are doing pretty neat out-of-home engagements that highlight things like the fact that our center high-mounted stop lamp doubles as a spoiler on the Coupe. So there will be some executions where people walk past a board and the LED lights depicted on the picture will light up, as will copy.

Q: In terms of out-of-home elements, is that focused on key CTS Coupe markets?

A: It's going to be a little broader. It will be in key luxury markets. So -- New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, etc. And it will have creative that features the Coupe, V-Series Coupe, Sedan and SRX.

Q: Cadillac has been using the V-Series vehicles in advertising for a while now, even though those are low-volume models. Why not focus on the higher-volume mainstream models?

A: We view those as our "change agents," if you will, with the idea being, "Let's show the products that will cause people to think differently about Cadillac." It's to challenge what is still this residual thinking that Cadillac is big cars that can't maneuver. We are quite the opposite. When you are talking about the CTS-V being the fastest standard production sedan to ever navigate the Nurburgring [famed auto test track in Nurburg, Germany] -- we are bringing that to bear in a way that makes people say, "I have to take another look, that's not what my conception was."

Q: What other areas will you be focusing on this year, in terms of expanding share of voice?

A: We will make an increased effort relative to diverse audiences. Making sure we have the right kind of relevance there as well. The good news is, in terms of how we position Cadillac, it means we don't have to develop a new positioning for the African-American audience.

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