When Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac's CMO, spoke in December at a New York press event, he made it quite clear that siting the brand in New York would help Cadillac tap into the luxury culture outside its front door. “You can't deny the experience in New York of luxury outside of the automotive category, and how appealing it is.” The new headquarters, near Google and the High Line, are in the heart of all that, and the new campaign, including four spots teasing the new CT6 sedan, launched during the Oscars on Sunday night, show just how New York-centric the brand is in defining its place in the larger world.
It was a good decision, a great decision, to put the ads in the Oscars rather than in, say, a football game. The new work, via AOR Publicis New York (the automaker dropped Lowe & Partners in December) is filmic, and set to a larghetto tempo both visually and with the 90-second anthem spot's soundtrack, Asche & Spencer’s “Contemplative 246b,” and the operatic aria used for the other ads.
Ellinghaus also argued that luxury transcends the product; he may have even said luxury isn’t about the product, but I won’t hold him to that. The ads certainly suggest so, as there are only fleeting shots of actual cars.
Besides the version of the Doug Limon-directed launch spot, introducing the “Dare Greatly” tag, Cadillac aired another spot extending the implied idea of creative audacity, featuring several entrepreneurs, including “Boyhood” director Richard Linklater Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and New York designer Jason Wu. The ads extend the “Dare Greatly” theme with rhetorical questions along the lines of “How dare a college dropout revolutionize the personal computer,” (cut to Woz on a couch listening to the very aria track we hear. Paradoxically, he's listening to it on a record turntable, not, say, his iPhone. He obviously knows his aural aesthetics.
The launch spot, with its music, style, and the urban mis en scene framed by classic cast-iron SoHo buildings, plus models, fashionistas and designers running about in slo-mo, is a clear expression of Cadillac as a New York brand, and as a luxury brand. That spot doesn’t show the new CT6 at all.
Market consultant Jim Sanfilippo says it's a good start. “I think they have the makings of a platform and characterization that helps them. It's a persona that gives them some space where they can speak eloquently about changing things for themselves, instead of relying on cliches about 'challenging convention’,’’ he says. “It's entrepreneurial and optimistic.”
His issue, which is one I don't have, actually, is that it might be too New York-centric. “It wouldn't have been too hard to broaden their vista of entrepreneurial giants,” he says. “I think there's a bigger story to be told.” In the above-mentioned ad, most of the entrepreneurs are New York based, or were shot here. I think it's a strong choice for two reasons: first, you never see New York street scenes in a car ad. Or rarely, anyway, and when you do they are deliberately stylized to be geographically generic.
And, as Sanfilippo says, the ads are full of rich (no pun intended) symbolism. I think the New York-ness of it makes that possible. And it is, after all, one of the top luxury markets, and one that has a real, and a special vitality. Most probably don’t.
Says Sanfilippo, “I think, with this campaign, they have definitely think they have put a stake in ground.”