Caddy goes 'Rock and Roll'

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Cadillac, the venerable General Motors Corp. luxury brand with its glory days well in the rearview mirror, is turning to a new umbrella ad theme using Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" in an effort to make the brand more contemporary.

The assault started with the redone 2002 model Escalade sport utility and the Escalade pickup-SUV version. Ads for the all-new CTS sedan, replacing the lackluster Catera, began running Feb. 3 on the Super Bowl. A 60-second brand spot, from Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles, Troy, Mich., during the game, flashed a glimpse of the sleek XLR two-seater, due in 2003.

Mark LaNeve, general marketing manager of Cadillac, said the ads use the song from the legendary 1970s band "to be hip and cool. We're using it to be iconic and to capture a certain spirit." The music, to be used at least a year, has broad appeal from 20-somethings to boomers, he said. But Kim Kosak, advertising and promotions director, said the ads won't alienate older Caddy owners. Cadillac showed the ads in pretests to its older loyal owners, with an average age of 62, and "they got it and enjoy the fact that Cadillac is back," she said.

This isn't the first time Cadillac promises a revival. Cadillac had led luxury sales since 1950 but lost out to Lincoln in 1998. In 2001, Cadillac ranked fourth in the luxury segment.

In a fall 1994 press release, Joseph Kennedy, then general director of marketing, predicted Cadillac's sales could reach 429,000 units by 2002, partly due to the arrival in 1996 of the Catera. However, in 2001, Cadillac sold 172,080 units, according to Automotive News' Data Center.

"Our strategy over the past few years has been to maintain our lock on the large luxury segment with our DeVille and Fleetwood models, while increasing our appeal with younger, import-oriented buyers," he said at the time. The boat-like Fleetwood, whose owners averaged 67 years old, faded into the sunset at the end of 1996.

In fall 1996, John Grettenberger, then general manager of Cadillac, boasted in a press release that Catera was "a truly international vehicle that can go head-to-head with BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and other competitors in the entry-luxury segment." The German-engineered sedan launched with "The Caddy that Zigs" tag and a cartoon duck that didn't connect to its target of educated, sophisticated boomers. The duck disappeared in fall 1998.

Then came the new "Power of &" campaign, which in fall 1999 then-General Manager John Smith called "an intense and highly emotional portrayal of Cadillac as it fuses design and technology in all aspects of its business." The brand dropped the tag in January 2001 because "confusion was high, likeability low," Ms. Kosak said then.

Jim Hall, VP of consulting group AutoPacific, said Cadillac's new products could help turn the brand around, but only if management keeps up the same product and marketing vision for a decade. He doesn't believe that will happen.

But new-car intenders have increasingly put Cadillac on their shopping lists since January 2001, according to consultant CNW Marketing/Research. Most of that rise is attributed to the Escalade SUV, said Art Spinella, a VP at CNW. "Don't underestimate Cadillac," said Jim Sanfilippo, exec VP at Automotive Marketing Consultants. "Simply draw a line product-wise from where they are where they're going and that line is longer than any of their competitors."

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