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Selling It-Still the Cadillac of Cars?-October 2011

Fallon’s ads say yes, but go beyond the luxury metaphor.

Selling It-Still the Cadillac of Cars?-October 2011
Few brands have become so synonymous with a perceived value that the very name is a marketing metaphor. But that’s the case with Cadillac, whose name signifies the premium product in a category.
 
But does the metaphor still work for the car itself? Making it meaningful for a new generation of buyers is the opportunity for Fallon, the Minneapolis-based agency that began producing ads for the legendary brand last year.
 
The Strategy
“Compelling product stories are what makes a Cadillac a Cadillac,” says Bruce Bildsten, executive creative director for Fallon. Attributes like Cadillac’s “chiseled, angular” look, “uniquely American” performance, and suspension system are among the features that rival “Teutonic engineering” and Japanese luxury cars, he says. Still, Cadillac’s creative positioning isn’t jingoistic, says Dennis Budniewski, general manager of what Fallon calls “Team Cadillac.” “It’s not about waving the flag and Americana and history,” Budniewski says. “It’s more about what Steve Jobs has created—innovation. It’s about what got a man to the moon, and always striving to leave neverwell- enough alone.”
 
The Creative Brief
Of course, one of Jobs’ jobs was to ensure that Apple had memorable creative, too. Cadillac’s campaign tries to break through as well, while not losing its attention to the details of product features. In one new television spot, “Flash,” a driver’s life flashes before his eyes as his advanced Cadillac braking system saves him from a collision. Another, “Bellissimo” (images shown above), boasts a reality: Ferrari borrowed Cadillac technology for its suspension system.
 
The ads’ focus on car features is probably savvy in these austere times, even though luxury brands have weathered the economy better than most sectors. The national zeitgeist is coupons, and Cadillac’s traditional luxury sell needs the proof points that the Fallon campaign brings.
 
The Buy
Adweek and Ward’s Automotive World both estimate Cadillac’s annual ad spending at around $270 million. Fallon won’t divulge a number or the allocation it makes to various media channels. But Bildsten confirms that the campaign will continue extensively on TV and on line. And despite some brands putting the brakes on print, Cadillac still believes in the medium, which Bildsten calls “vibrant,” an adjective he hopes extends to Cadillac itself.
 
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