Cadillac Ditches ‘Generic Backdrops’ and Other Car Ad Clichés in Its Oscars Spots

Features young achievers instead

Luxury car ads are stuck in a sea of sameness: An SUV plows through the snow; a sedan navigates a twisting mountain road before zooming across a bridge. But Cadillac is ditching those tropes in the ads it's debuting during Sunday's Academy Awards.

The spots, called "Don't You Dare," are an extension of the brand's "Dare Greatly" campaign, which launched in 2015. The two 60-second ads feature young achievers including Easton LaChapelle, a 19-year-old who developed a brain-powered prosthetic limb; Justus Williams, who became a national chess master at the age of 12; and teen chef Flynn McGarry. All of them achieved success through passion, dedication and resourcefulness and dared to do what naysayers told them couldn't be done.

"We went to these young people as protagonists for the campaign because it's amazing what they've achieved in their young lifetimes—how self-confident they are, how they've become entrepreneurs and mastered their own destinies," Cadillac's CMO Uwe Ellinghaus told Adweek. "We want to be a brand for customers who also have this confidence, who say, 'I'm not the usual corporate animal. I can buy what I want and drive what I want.'" 

Ellinghaus gave two directives at the start of the campaign: The ads should have no automotive clichés, and they shouldn't have any of the clichés commonly associated with luxury car commercials. "There are certain elements of the zeitgeist that you can see in all car ads—contemporary architecture as a backdrop, bridges, buildings that all look the same," he said. "They fall into generic backdrops that might be appropriate to show the capabilities of the car, but they become so interchangeable that people say, 'Ah, typical car ad,' and flip the page or turn off the TV. Our advertising has a certain stopping power in it."

Cadillac also hopes to appeal to younger drivers, Ellinghaus added. "The consumers the German luxury brands have courted in the U.S. over the last few decades are getting older and older, so we have a chance to almost reverse the game," he said. "People walked away from their grandfather's car, the Cadillac, and went to the German brands. Now, the older customers are sitting in German brands, giving younger customers the idea to take a look at Cadillac. It's a paradigm shift to where Cadillac was 30 years ago."

Cadillac chose to debut the spots during the Oscars rather than the Super Bowl because more of its target audience watches the Oscars, Ellinghaus said. "The Super Bowl has a great reach, but for us, it would be too much reach. We also think that the Super Bowl turns into an advertising contest that reflects more on the ego problems of chief marketing officers than the actual marketing that's represented. The Oscars feels so much more prolific for Cadillac as a brand. We've always had strong associations with Hollywood and with entertainment, so it's part of our heritage."

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