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CADILLAC TAKES NEW ROUTE FOR SEVILLE STS: INFOMERCIAL GM BRAND BATTLES LEXUS, BMW, MERCEDES WITH 30-MINUTE FORMAT

By Published on .

Cadillac ventures into the territory of ab-crunchers and investment gurus Aug. 24, debuting a 30-minute infomercial aimed at taking buyers away from Lexus, BMW of North America and Mercedes-Benz USA.

Entitled "The Challenge of Change," the infomercial for the General Motors Corp. division was produced by agency Draft Worldwide, Chicago. Former MTV VJ Mark Goodman does the voice-over for the Seville STS pitch, which pits the luxury sport sedan against three import models.

The Mercedes-Benz E430, Lexus LS 400 and BMW 540i are repeatedly mentioned by name -- and briefly shown on screen -- as Cadillac personnel describe the challenge of building a competitive car.

The infomercial will air on a variety of cable channels, said Nancy Leibig, senior VP-marketing director at Draft.

It urges consumers to call an 800-number for print materials and "special offers." Ms. Leibig said response will determine the length of the campaign.

It's initially slated to run for three to four months, according to Steve Rosenblum, Seville brand manager.

The infomercial will use "a relatively small" portion of Cadillac's ad budget, he said. Cadillac spent $46 million on Seville in measured media in 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Cadillac could shelve the segment temporarily after its initial run, then revive it or continue it only in regions where response is strong, Mr. Rosenblum said.

AN UNCOMMON TACTIC

Doris Ferraro, VP-Cadillac account director at Draft, said the GM division approached the agency with the infomercial idea. Other auto brands, including Chevrolet, Land Rover and Lexus, have used infomercials but the tactic is uncommon, she said.

Cadillac executives felt they needed the longer format to describe technical features on the STS, Ms. Ferraro said.

"There's not enough time to explain all of it in a 30-second spot," she said.

Aside from technology, the infomercial features favorable comments from import owners invited to a test drive of STS and rival vehicles.

"I expected the old Cadillac -- the boat on wheels," one driver says in the infomercial. "This is a sports car."

CHANGING ATTITUDES

Cadillac needs that kind of attitude change to compete, said Jeffrey Schuster, manager of forecasting and product planning at J.D. Power & Associates.

The "near-luxury" market is growing, but younger car buyers are turned off by the traditional Cadillac image of conservative styling, large vehicles and soft rides, he said.

Even if the message is right, Mr. Schuster questioned whether the format will work.

"It's an interesting approach, but I don't know that it gets to the right audience," he said. "Is a Cadillac buyer or an import buyer going to sit there

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