Taking Cadillac from Stodgy to Sexy: Kate Walsh

Grey's Anatomy Star Brings Erotic Allure to a Tired Brand

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Cadillac ... sexy?

That should be a laugh line. For most of the past 40 years, Cadillac has more or less been synonymous with white-belted retirees driving at 39 mph to get their prostates checked. By the 1970s, the once-proud luxury brand, the erstwhile mark of wealth and achievement, had devolved into a sofa on wheels.

Then it became a Chevy with fancy trim. Then it became a non-factor in the luxury car market, holding cachet only for extremely aggressive Mary Kay distributors and the near dead.

But then GM set about designing a stylish car worthy of the already impressive Northstar engine and in 2003 introduced a boldly faceted CTS, a midsize sedan trapped in a stealth fighter's body. It turned heads appropriately, showed up in "Matrix Reloaded" and benefited from a fair amount of buzz.

It did not, however, turn the brand around.

This had something to do with Leo Burnett's unexceptional advertising and something to do with accrued bad will. Since then, in classic GM fashion, the glacial product cycle killed off whatever buzz momentum Cadillac briefly enjoyed and, as the 2008 model year commences, it's back at square one.

But wait. The CTS has been thoroughly redesigned. It's a gorgeous little rocket that could have exactly the halo effect GM is looking for, provided anybody ever notices the introduction. And, count on one thing: They will. New TV spots from Modernista, Boston, are eye-catching, ear-catching, informative, cerebral and -- dare we say? -- pretty freakin' sexy.

This owes partly to the celebrity talent -- notably Kate Walsh from "Grey's Anatomy." We want her to have our children. No, really. We have three children, and she can have all of them if she'll just read copy for us -- any copy: cat food, industrial boilers, HeadOn, anything -- the way she reads her Cadillac lines:

"In today's luxury game, the question isn't whether or not your car has available features like a 40-gig hard drive. It isn't about sun roofs or Sapelli wood accents, popup nav screens or any of that. No, the real question is: When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?" The italics are mine, because the printed word fails here. You need to hear her voice. Walsh sounds a little bored, her words slightly slurred, as if she were two pomegranate martinis into the evening but with her wits totally about her.

For instance, though she first dismisses the significance of luxury-car features per se, she still manages to list the highlights. And they're duly registered -- right up to where she mentions erotic stimulation and floors the gas pedal in her high-heeled sandal.

Sure enough, suddenly the GPS system doesn't seem to matter. And prostate patients everywhere feel hope. (And so will women, who are sure to see this brazen foxiness as empowering -- and maybe more than that. Unless we are grossly misinterpreting her last line, this sounds like an ad for a $40,000 vibrator.)

Another spot, featuring Martin Henderson from "Smokin' Aces," is one of two that dares BMW and Lexus prospects to get out of lockstep: "You can practice risk avoidance. You can aspire to blend in quietly. You can live in, drive and wear social camouflage. And you can believe in the philosophy that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. Or you can be the hammer."

Iconoclasm, of course, is often the last refuge of a marginal brand. But this is a 300-horsepower variant, not merely challenging conformists but enticing them and playing to their vanity. It doesn't hurt, either, that the car looks just plain ... sexy.

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