'Be Cool' Movie Co-Promotion Boosts Carmaker's Web Traffic

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The deal: Earlier this year, as part of its product integration deal with the MGM comedy Be Cool, Cadillac launched a five-second-film contest to promote its new CTS V-Series sedan.

The result: The effort revved up interest in the automaker, sending more traffic to Cadillac’s Web sites, resulting in more leads.

What does it take to catch a Web surfer's eye? Almost nothing.
The online film contest also helped increase traffic to by 458% during the six-week period following the launch of the campaign.

That’s what Cadillac discovered when it launched an online promotion earlier this year tied to the MGM comedy Be Cool, which starred John Travolta.

As part of an effort to demonstrate that its new Cadillac CTS V-series sedans can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in five seconds, the General Motors Corp. division launched a five-second ad online –- at the time, the shortest ad that’s ever aired on the Internet. Zoom. Blink. It was over.

'How five seconds feels'

"We wanted to really communicate how five seconds feels," said Tom Hassett, Cadillac's advertising manager.

In spite of the ad's speed, the five-second promotion attracted 43,000 more registered visitors to who requested dealer information than had registered on the site during the same period last year. The online ads also 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 the year before.

But to expand on the theme of speed, Cadillac launched a contest during the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 that gave viewers a chance to win a Cadillac if they made the best five-second film. To promote the effort, the automaker paired up with Be Cool, a sequel to 1995’s Get Shorty, and used the film’s lead character, Chili Palmer, played by John Travolta, to serve as the contest’s spokesman. The Palmer character 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," Mr. Travolta said (in character) on the Web site promotion. "Impress me. You have five seconds."

Immediate response

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. The contest ran through Feb. 17. In total, some 2,648 films were received. The winning film was broadcast the night of the Grammy Awards as part of a 30-second spot.

The automaker spent nearly $2 million for online ads and search engine marketing to promote the contest.
The online film contest also helped increase traffic to by 458% during the six-week period following the launch of the campaign.

" Publicis Groupe's Chemistri and Leo Burnett USA handled the offline aspects of the campaign.

The contest gave participants a chance to not only involve themselves with the sedan's performance by devising five-second shorts, but also create 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 at least one of the vehicle pages for the V-Series product line.

"It was like a candy dish, visitors would sample one film and then go to the next one," said Dave Fiore, creative director at Arc Worldwide, which handled the online aspects of the campaign.

Novelist Elmore Leonard

Mr. Fiore wrote the copy for the Web site and submitted it to novelist Elmore Leonard, who penned the Get Shorty and Be Cool novels and created the Palmer character. Mr. Fiore, a huge fan of the writer, said he was thrilled that Mr. Leonard didn't change a word.

Creatively, the contest worked because "expressing your personal character is part of the Cadillac mentality," Mr. Fiore said. "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."

Although a number of car manufacturers have used films to promote their vehicles, the idea was a good one for the younger demographic (aspirational buyers in their 30s and 40s) that Cadillac was targeting, said Julie Ask, research director and senior analyst at Jupiter Research. "Making films isn't easy, but it fits with the tech-savvy demographic they were after.

The focus on performance is part of GM'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, luxury and not performance is generally what springs to mind.

Super Bowl, Grammy and Academy Awards

With the Internet at the center of the campaign, and positioning aspects of the effort appearing at pivotal events during the winter and spring, such as the Super Bowl, Grammy Awards and the Academy Awards, Cadillac ended up being "where people didn't expect us to be," Mr. Fiore said.

The notion of speed was not only a good fit for the campaign, it probably actually attracted more interest and helped increase viewership.

"The ideal length for an Internet video is 15 seconds or less," said Danny Fishman, executive vice president for sales and business development at online video site iFilm Corp. Indeed, although some sites still run 30-second ads, 15 seconds is the de facto industry standard online, including at iFilm, which shows 15 seconds of ads for every 2.5 minutes of content.

"Large, long files take forever to download,” Mr. Fiore said. “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."
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