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Cadillac Advertising: It Was Time For A Change

Please look for a shop with cajones!

by on Oct.14, 2009

One of Cadillac's recent ads by Modernista.

Recent ad by Modernista.

Second only to the famous John Wannamaker truism of “Half my advertising doesn’t work, I just don’t know which half” is the wise advertising adage, “An agency is only as good as the client let’s them be.”

That is why last Friday, when the newest GM marketing news broke that Cadillac was agency shopping, I was not surprised. The association/relationship between the current agency and Cadillac was far from symbiotic.

So, for a change this was not bad news. Matter of fact it could be good news for Cadillac as current advertising efforts defined the words bad, boring and banal. Cadillac — once the most respected automobile brand for quality, integrity, dependability and vaunted aspiration — is floundering and lost in a very competitive world.

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When I was a kid, owning a Caddy was the vehicular mark of success. So WTF happened? The name Cadillac epitomized positive words like quality, reliability and accomplishment. Was it the cars? Or was it the result of a good product well advertised? The brand’s advertising was equal to and often enhanced the design and engineering of its many vehicle models for more than 100 years.

In 2006, Leo Burnett, the final inheritor of the founding Cadillac agency in 1910, MacManus, John & Adams, lost the account to Modernista. Liz Vanzura, the former VW wunderkind (some said, L’Enfant Terrible) who had moved to GM and Hummer in 2003, was promoted to global marketing director of Cadillac, and she appointed the Boston-based shop. She was getting gushy media coverage including this from Business Week:

“The decisive act by Vanzura, who has rising influence and is now on her second brand, busts a company bureaucracy that has long relied more on the weight of its media budget than on compelling ad ideas to sell cars. ‘ TiVo and the remote control are killing us,’ says Vanzura. ‘We have to give consumers more reasons to listen to what we have to say.’”