Cadillac Turns to Teddy Roosevelt in New Ad Campaign

New ad campaign debuting during Oscars broadcast.

by on Feb.19, 2015

Cadillac's new Dare Greatly ad campaign focuses on scenes from New York, rather than product.

Where are the rocks and trees?

A new ad campaign from Cadillac takes a big detour from the traditional automotive marketing approach. Rather than focus on one of the luxury maker’s products, such as the new CTS-V performance sedan, it picks up on one of the more inspiring speeches delivered by President Theodore Roosevelt back in 1910.

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To some observers, it has brought to mind the controversial approach introduced for the 1989 launch of the then-new Infiniti brand which focused on a zen-like natural environment, rather than product. Except the rocks and trees of that campaign have been traded for a slow-motion rendering of New York – which just happens to be where Cadillac is moving its headquarters this year.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” declared Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23, 1910.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming … who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat,” Roosevelt said in a speech that became known as the “Man in the Arena.”

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Cadillac officials say they are trying to “redefine” what they stand for. And the brand clearly needs to make a statement. Once the leader of the largest luxury market in the world, Cadillac’s position has since slipped to second-tier status behind the current leaders, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

It hasn’t helped that those competitors – especially the Germans – have flooded the market with an array of products while Caddy’s offerings have been minimal, at best. Cadillac has begun to address that situation, however.

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Last summer, General Motors hired on Johan de Nysschen as its new global president. The South African-born executive was, at the time, running Infiniti out of its new Hong Kong HQ, and before that was in charge of Audi’s North American operations.

To sweeten the deal, GM put de Nysschen in charge of a $12 billion product development program that will see Caddy launch not only new V-Series versions of its CTS and ATS sedans, but a new flagship CT6 model debuting later this year. An even more luxurious model is set to follow, along with a range of products set to include a new entry-luxury sedan and several new SUVs.

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In a controversial move, de Nysschen also won GM board approval to move the brand’s headquarters to New York where he believes top planners will be positioned closer to one of the country’s largest luxury car markets.

The next step is to signal Cadillac’s new strategy to potential buyers. And Caddy will be aiming at a large audience with the new 90-second ad it posted online. Titled “Dare Greatly,” it will reappear in split form on the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday night, with both a 60-second and a 30-second version.

Caddy’s marketers are hoping to get better reviews than they received two years ago for the campaign used to launch the then-new Cadillac ATS compact sedan. Called “Cadillac v The World,” it showed the sporty 4-door being driven in challenging locations around the globe. But it failed to generate much demand for the new ATS model.

Caddy sales in the U.S. slipped in 2014, though global volume was up thanks to the brand’s introduction in China. De Nysschen has said it will take a few years to rebuild interest in the home market as Cadillac adds new product and redefines itself in the eyes of the public, apparently starting with a boost from Teddy Roosevelt.

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3 Responses to “Cadillac Turns to Teddy Roosevelt in New Ad Campaign”

  1. Jorge says:

    I’ve never seen this type of marketing be very effective at selling the metal. It may change some people’s POV on a brand or product, but IME it is not very effective in making actual sales. Usually if you have a good product you can make your case to consumers. When you can’t do that, it’s a tough sell no matter what marketing approach you use.

  2. Put money and solid development into product and great looking babes in the cars or on the hoods in the ads and that will sell the cars !

  3. veh says:

    I don’t know…Caddy has good product. It seems that isn’t enough. I think they have to try something different as what they’ve BEEN doing clearly doesn’t work

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