Blink and you might miss Caddy's latest on Net

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What does it take to catch an online surfer's eye? Almost nothing.

That's what Cadillac discovered when it ran a five-second ad-then the shortest ad on the Internet ever. The ad was designed to demonstrate that the Cadillac CTS V-Series sedans go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds. Zoom. Blink. It's over.

But in spite of the ad's speed, the five-second promotion drew 43,000 more users to who requested dealer information than were registered on the site last year. And, the online ads helped increase traffic to by 458% during the six-week period following the launch of the campaign, driving 1.5 million more visitors to the site than during the same period the year before. "We wanted to really communicate how five seconds feels," said Tom Hassett, Cadillac advertising manager.

The focus on performance is part of Cadillac's new strategy, which has placed Chevrolet and Cadillac as its anchor brands as it reduces its remaining nameplates. One way to reinforce that idea has been to surprise people, not only with where Cadillac messages appear, but also what they focus on, Mr. Hassett said. When consumers picture a Cadillac the idea of luxury, not performance, is generally what springs to mind. Putting the Internet at the center of the campaign, and positioning aspects of the campaign to appear at pivotal events during the winter and spring, launching at the Super Bowl and then running promotions at the Grammy Awards and the Academy Awards, the brand was "where people didn't expect us to be," he said.


The notion of speed was not only a good fit for the campaign-it probably attracted more interest and helped increase the response. "The ideal length for an Internet video is 15 seconds or less," said Danny Fishman, exec VP-sales and business development at online video site iFilm Corp. Indeed, although some sites still run 30-second ads, 15 seconds is the industry standard online, including at iFilm, which shows 15 seconds of ads for every 2.5 minutes of content.

Said Dave Fiore, creative director at Arc Worldwide, which handled the online aspects of the campaign, "Large, long files take forever to download. Every additional second you require a Web user to wait ratchets up the expectation of the entertainment. That's why people will wait for a movie trailer, but not an ad."

To emphasize the aspects of speed and surprise, Cadillac launched a contest during the Super Bowl with a TV ad during the game, giving Web visitors a chance to win a Cadillac if they made the best five-second film. Response was immediate. Some 39 submissions came in before the Super Bowl had ended, and 10 of the 39 appeared within the first 20 minutes of the site going live. In total, some 2,648 films were received. The winning film was broadcast the night of the Grammy Awards.

The automaker partnered with the MGM film "Be Cool," and used the lead character, Chili Palmer, played by John Travolta, to kick off the contest in promotions that appeared during the Sundance Film Festival, and appear throughout the promotion to move the contest along. Mr. Travolta, who reprised his role from the gangster flick "Get Shorty," is a Cadillac-loving bad guy whose new DeVille DTS sedan is destroyed in the opening sequence of the film. "It's about fast cars and fast films," Travolta said (in character) on the Web site promotion. "Impress me. You have five seconds."

The contest gave participants a chance to not only involve themselves with the sedans' performance by devising five-second shorts, but created compelling content that would keep users on the site longer. The average length of a visit to was about 15 minutes, and nearly two-thirds of visitors clicked through to at least one of the vehicle pages for the V-Series.

Creatively, the contest worked because "expressing your personal character is part of the Cadillac mentality," Mr. Fiore explained. "And not just creating it-but sharing it so the world can see what they've done. People who drive Cadillacs don't keep their light hidden under a bushel."

contributing: jean halliday

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