Cadillac’s decision last year to drop advertising agency Modernista! had less to do with the quality of the firm’s work than with the desire to reposition the brand, a top marketing executive says.
“We had a lot of good work done by Modernista!, so it’s nothing against them,” says Steve Shannon, executive director-Cadillac marketing. “But we have to improve our game in every aspect of the business.”
Boston-based Modernista!, which also worked on General Motors Corp.’s Hummer brand, is best known for creating Cadillac’s “Re-Ignition” ads. The spot emulated a NASA spacecraft launch, with each “rocket stage” resulting in one Cadillac model morphing into another.
While popular on social media sites such as YouTube, the spot reportedly didn’t resonate with former marketing chief Bob Lutz. The decision to seek a new ad shop for the Cadillac brand was launched last October.
Throughout the search process, Cadillac officials sought an agency that could help thrust the premium marque into the spotlight, a move deemed necessary following GM’s bankruptcy and subsequent trimming of its lineup.
“As Cadillac became a big beneficiary of GM’s strategy to get down to four brands, we looked at increased advertising spending,” says Shannon, declining to divulge exact monetary figures. “We looked at every aspect of our business and (decided) we are exactly where we need to be to take advantage of this huge new opportunity in the market place.”
Shannon says Cadillac performed a very thorough search for a new marketing firm and saw a “terrific range of work” by some of the “best advertising agencies in the country.”
In the end, the U.K. firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) was tapped to handle Cadillac’s account, valued at some $270 million.
“In the luxury segment, you have to create a whole world,” Shannon says. “A lot of agencies showed us great luxury-car advertising, but BBH showed us a great luxury world that Cadillac can live in.”
Shannon is mum on details of the upcoming campaigns but promises the first campaign, set to debut next month, will create a “sort of visual identity” for Cadillac.
“It will be a significant change,” Shannon says of the new campaign. “I think we’re very much focused on the quality of our assets. We’re going to focus equal parts between the style of the cars and the substance,” he adds.
Despite an increased advertising budget, Shannon says Cadillac has no plans to return as a major sponsor of the annual Super Bowl football extravaganza in the U.S. The brand did not advertise at all in the 2009 game and returned in a limited fashion in January.
In the past, Cadillac spent considerable advertising dollars on Super Bowl spots and presented a vehicle to the game’s most valuable player. But while the Super Bowl was an excellent venue to build awareness of the Cadillac brand, it cast too wide a net, Shannon says.
“Geography is very important in the luxury-car business,” he says. “We know where (luxury) buyers are concentrated, so the focus is less about Super Bowls and more about how do we get the right people behind the wheel of the car?”
In particular, Shannon would like to see the campaign boost the profile of the new CTS sports Sport Wagon. GM doesn’t break out sales figure for individual models in the CTS lineup, but he says the jury is out as to how well the wagon will perform in the market place.
“I would say Americans haven’t turned in groves to wagons, but we think there’s an opportunity there and it wasn’t a huge investment for us to do,” he says. “We did it partially for our business in Europe, where (wagon buyers) are younger and more male.”
In the recent past, wagons generally received a lukewarm reception from U.S. consumers. A prime example is the Dodge Magnum, which was sold from ’05 to ’08 before Chrysler Group LLC pulled the plug due to lackluster sales.
During its entire production run, Chrysler sold only 169,080 units, according to Ward’s data.
To build awareness of the CTS Sport Wagon, Shannon says Cadillac will focus on regions in the U.S. where wagons sell well.
“Wagons are very concentrated in places like the Northeast,” he says. “So we will do some incremental marketing initiatives just in those places.”