Cadillac takes tentative step toward targeting gay market

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Conservative Cadillac is cautiously experimenting with its first-ever push into gay and lesbian magazines to reach luxury prospects and improve its image. The shift hits as Cadillac aims to build on its best sales year since 1990.

The strategy started last year with four ad pages for the new SRX sport utility in LPI Media's The Advocate, said Joe Landry, publisher. The buy will support the Feb. 17 "Gay Corporate Leader" issue and appear in LPI's Out in March. "This is the first time an American auto company has advertised their flagship" in LPI titles, he said, although General Motors Corp.'s Saturn has made buys since 1995 and its Saab brand since 1994.

Chris Hamer, director-advertising and sales promotion at Cadillac, said the brand will buy between six and nine pages in the two titles this year, costing under $1 million. It will use existing creative from its general-market agency, Publicis Groupe's Chemistri, Troy, Mich. Although he is studying dedicated creative, he wanted to move quickly into the titles while the matter is under consideration.

Mr. Hamer said vehicle sales data for the gay and lesbian target is hard to come by. Cadillac also plans follow-up research to discover whether the ads are improving consideration and the brand's image with the target. Cadillac sold 216,090 units, last year, up 8% over 2002.

playing catchup

Other car marketers are well ahead of Cadillac in advertising to gays and lesbians. Subaru of America started in 1989 with buys in The Advocate. Ford Motor Co.'s Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover entered the field in 2002.

"Cadillac is kind of late to the game," said Todd Turner, president of consultant CarConcepts. He said product placement is the best way to market to the segment, citing Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," which features a GMC XL SUV.

Wesley Combs, president of Witeck-Combs, Washington, which handles marketing strategy for the three Ford brands, said its research shows campaigns with dedicated creative and integrated sponsorships and events work best. General-market creative is an "easy way to see if it works or if you get a backlash" from current buyers.

Mike O'Malley, who left GM in 2001, said Cadillac is risking buyer backlash. He said the question of advertising in gay and lesbian titles never arose during his tenure as general manager of Cadillac, his last job at GM.

But Mr. Hamer said "there's a greater risk of not being out there and reaching out to affluent markets. It's smart business for us to advertise in magazines that reach out to affluent customers."

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