Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cadillac: 'Life, Liberty, Pursuit'

Thursday, July 27, 2006
Cadillac: 'Life, Liberty, Pursuit'
Brand hopes new ads will create buzz that lures younger buyers and luxury import owners.
Brett Clanton / The Detroit News

Say goodbye to Led Zeppelin, celebrity voice-overs and speeding silver cars. Cadillac has a new advertising campaign.

Unveiled Wednesday, it carries the theme "Life. Liberty. And The Pursuit." and signals a new approach to growing General Motors Corp's top luxury brand after a recent turnaround at the division.

The new ads seek to broaden Cadillac's appeal among younger buyers, import drivers and other target groups, and will try to reestablish the gold-standard image that once defined the historic marque.

Launching early next month, the new ads replace a 3-year-old campaign that featured the Led Zeppelin song "Rock and Roll," narration by actor Gary Sinise and a revamped model lineup that was meant to mark a sharp break from the faltering Cadillac of the 1980s and '90s.

Now that the brand is healthy again, Cadillac wants to move out of comeback mode and into attack position.

"We have raised awareness and achieved good momentum with the Cadillac brand," said Liz Vanzura, Cadillac's global marketing director. "But now it's time to put a face on the brand and invite more consumers to experience what Cadillac has to offer."

Since the launch of a 2001 turnaround plan, Cadillac has posted four years of consecutive sales gains, more than doubled its model lineup, improved quality scores and lowered the average age of Cadillac buyers by five years to 59.

Altering negative perceptions

But the brand still faces tough competition from foreign and domestic automakers, which are expanding offerings in the highly-profitable luxury category. And it will continue to fight negative perceptions formed during years when quality was lackluster and its vehicle lineup uninspiring.

"When you think of Cadillac now, you probably still think of it as a big, gas-guzzling car," said Eric Smallwood, vice president of Front Row Marketing in Port Huron. Cadillac's central challenge, he said, remains to convince carbuyers that's no longer the case.

Through June, Cadillac sales were down 9 percent, and its U.S. market share slipped to 1.3 percent, down from 1.4 percent a year ago, according to Autodata Corp.

Ads target five key groups

The outgoing "Break Through" campaign helped put Cadillac back on many shopping lists by highlighting the new, chiseled look of Cadillac models and trumpeting vehicle attributes.

But the goal of the new ads is to make the brand more inviting so customers are drawn to the cars and trucks as much for emotional reasons as rational ones.

"Our mission is to reignite a love affair with Cadillac," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the brand.

To make the brand more approachable, Cadillac will put people back in print and TV ads and use different voices and music. By contrast, the previous campaign used the same song and celebrity pitchman from the time it launched at the 2002 Super Bowl.

The new ads will be broadly aimed at customers Cadillac officials call "perpetual strivers," who fall into five groups: the young and ambitious "Move Up's;" the discerning "Alpha's;" the image-conscious "Hot Moms;" the import-driving Boomers; and the graying loyalists.

The campaign also will put greater focus on the brand's wreath and crest logo, which has been updated with two shimmer points to make it look 3-D and jewel-like. The famous insignia will appear, without words, at the close of TV ads. And when Cadillac writes its brand name in print ads or elsewhere, it will now use a classic cursive script that recalls its heritage.

New ad firm takes over

The new campaign is the work of Boston-based advertising firm Modernista!, which in June took over the Cadillac account from Leo Burnett, a firm that under different names had controlled the business for more than 70 years.

The move came shortly after Liz Vanzura, who had worked with Modernista! when she was marketing chief at GM's Hummer, arrived at Cadillac this spring.

But Cadillac officials say they recognized that a change was needed in the brand's advertising months before Vanzura joined the team. Concerned that complacency could sap the brand's momentum, Cadillac's leaders began meeting last fall to discuss ways to infuse new energy into marketing, Smith said.

"They said, 'Now's the time to look at what we can do next,'" he said.

You can reach Brett Clanton at (313) 222-2612 or

© Copyright 2006 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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