Letters, May 17, 2010

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First Cadillac spots from BBH strike a nerve with viewers

RE: "First Cadillac Ads From BBH Make Their Debut"

It would be really funny if the spot was exactly as is, except you take out the Caddy and use a banana. Then you've got a spot worth air time.

"The Mark of Excellence" used to be GM's tagline. It could be applied to Cadillac. However, "The Mark of Leadership" rings false for Cadillac because, as we all know, they are not the leaders in anything -- except being Cadillac.

Really? Fast-cut music video with graphics?

Really? They fired Modernista -- for this?

This is so 1990 it hurts. I'd feel bad for the good folks at BBH, except that I guess they're just in it for the dough.

Too bad. There's so much more someone could do with this brand. Sad.

Sweet new spots. You have a crisp commercial, even with the sound turned off. Better still, the music is perfectly synced with the graphics. Having the car moving backward, as in a dance step, is disruptive in a good way -- not the same old, same old. As much as it can, the car looks like it is dancing to the music. The dealers -- "just show the metal, just show the metal, we'll do the rest" -- have to be thrilled. You had a tough act to follow in Modernista. Good start.

I understand where the commercial is trying to go with "Mark of Leadership" but leadership in what? Promoting leadership is great but what does Cadillac lead in? Safety? Reliability? Sales? Luxury? I'm not sure. Relieved that the Life, Liberty and the Pursuit" campaign is over. The ads failed to showcase the Cadillac difference.

A huge step down from where Modernista had them. At least with the old work there was a certain amount of swagger they were able to conjure up that felt dark, challenging and even a little sexy. This work is every cliche in the book, and while BBH can do better, it seems the clients won't let them. Some weenie in Detroit is defending this crap by saying, "We validated the 'insights' (and boy do I use that term loosely) statistically and tested the hell out of the spot until we were above norm in blah and blah blah. The spot should be working and if it doesn't it's not our fault, because we have the numbers to tell us what to do."

What's the secret to a modern CMO's success?

RE: Carlos Cata and Scott Davis' "Traditional CMO Roles Won't Position Your Company or Your Career for Growth" (AdAge.com, May 10)

It's a well-written and well-reasoned piece. As a CMO myself, I find that you need to establish your leadership and credibility by demonstrating that you are first and foremost a business leader and that everything you do will shape and advance the strategic business goals of your company.

To do so, you need to be a quarterback, an inventor, a driver, an architect and a director. But on top of all these things, you have to be the steward of your company's brand equity. As control and influence over brands moves more into the hands of your customers, the CMO must be the steward of not only the brand, but of the consumers who determine the validity and value of the brand and by extension, the value of your company.

More and more companies are using brand equity as one of the most important determinants of company value, and in the same way the CEO is the steward of share value, the CMO has to be steward of the brand value. As the economy emerges from recession, the race toward relevance will intensify and the determination of the winners will come from consumers, and their vote will determine your brand equity and your company's success.

Some corporations already have a huge advantage here as they have broken down the silos internally and externally.

Moreover, experience shows that those CMOs who measure their brands' performances (and strive for tangible improvements) really have grasped the opportunity -- and they have a role to play with other C-level managers.

Using smarter metrics for performance monitoring, working better with agency suppliers, ensuring accountability, performance and driving transparency in all marketing investments can help the CMO be taken seriously, and ultimately help get to the C-suite.

Showing tangible results is a prerequisite now more than ever.

These points most often resonate with the folks with the pressure of P&L responsibility. Be clear -- this isn't mainly a recession issue. Marketing to today's consumer is different than it was even five years ago. And guess what, media fragmentation is showing no signs of slowing down. The trick is knowing where to expand (digital media) and which traditional marketing to hold on to (sorry, TV and print are not dead).

In addition to your well-articulated points, I believe it's very important for CMOs to have a sales-oriented mind-set as we head out of the recession. As a former marketing VP, I'm seeing a sea change in CEOs' attitudes toward the marketing department. They don't want to hear about impressions and brand building; those are mere blocking and tackling. They want to know how marketing is driving sales -- and they want proof.

Correction: In Agency Report 2010 (AA, April 26), the Top 15 Consolidated Agency Networks chart should have listed Peter Stringham as the executive in charge of WPP's Young & Rubicam Brands.

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