December 6, 2013
No automotive company has done more to alter their brand’s image than Cadillac. Via edgy product design and mostly provocative creative approach to advertising, Cadillac has taken a tired symbol of wealth (the car for white grandpa’s and stereotypical black pimps) and fashioned it into an aggressive lineup of slick and sporty vehicles.
This transformation happened in recent memory. Which is only to say I can still remember the other Cadillac. Vividly. My grandfather had one. I loved playing with the power windows (then a newish feature) and pretending I was in a limo. In a funeral. Which, I suppose, was exactly the problem.
Whether we like the new Cadillac or will ever purchase one remains to be seen but we must give the automaker credit for trying and succeeding in making this epic change. A lot of things could have gone wrong.
I speak from experience. Back in the day I was part of the team at Leo Burnett responsible for invigorating the Oldsmobile brand. As with Cadillac, General Motors had totally redesigned their fleet. For advertising, we’d come up with the now famous (infamous?) “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile.” Lots of history here, some controversial, which I’ve written about before. Regardless, less than a decade later Oldsmobile was out of business.
So, kudos to Cadillac! You made it into the 21st century. They and their marketing agencies deserve a lot of credit.
For me, two commercials define Cadillac’s transformation. The first one happened early on during Cadillac’s rebirthing. Visually, the spot was nothing out of the ordinary- just driving footage against beautiful scenery. But a couple things were decidedly different. First, the car itself had been conspicuously altered from every Caddy before it. So much so I’m not sure most folks (including me) had even liked it. With its bodacious lines and risky silhouette, I thought it was perhaps trying too hard to be different. Looking back I can better appreciate this radical design change. It took balls. Second, and to me just as conspicuous, was the spot’s usage of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll” for a soundtrack. Whether you consider Zep dinosaurs or not, nothing signified Cadillac’s resurgence better than this famously badass tune.
Been a long time since I did the stroll…
The other TVC I’d like to call out (posted up front) pays homage to all the great innovations and inventions having occurred in garages: HP, Apple, Amazon and numerous other hugely famous companies all mentioned by name. Including another iconic band, the garage-born Ramones! Then we see the new Cadillac coming out of a garage.
While I concede any new car could have starred in this commercial it was Cadillac that did. By linking itself to so many modern success stories, particularly in technology, Cadillac has once again has broken away from its history of being a pimp mobile or, worse yet, your grandfather’s champagne colored boat.
Ever since helping give rise to the “Curiously Strong Mints” campaign for Altoids, I’ve been a huge fan of outdoor advertising. Especially posters, propaganda and signs. Yet, maybe the awe for it goes back even further than Altoids…
Case in point a small excerpt from my keynote presentation to the Outdoor Marketing Association of Canada (OMAC), which I gave earlier today:
…I grew up in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. Nice now, but when I was a kid the area was rife with gang violence, in particular a turf war between the Latin Eagles and the Latin Kings. Their flamboyant signs permeated my neighborhood, haunting the alleyways, literally threatening me from around every corner. Marking their territory, if you will pardon the expression…
Crude as it sounds brands exert power marking their territory. We are here, they say. And we mean business. You cannot resist us! Granted, brands don’t jump you in the alley and take your bus money (not yet, anyway) but that doesn’t make my crude metaphor any less accurate. Signs and symbols have always been used to convey messages. For good. Evil. And everything in between. And OOH has done so for a longer stretch of time than all the other media combined.
November 11, 2013
Good Lord, that baby will destroy us all!
So, I’m watching football this weekend when on comes this giant ass baby. I was like What The F—k? There’s a humongous baby in this dude’s garage. Then it’s bawling its eyes out in front of a gushing fire hydrant. A car crashes. And then it’s over.
Is this a trailer for a new movie? “Honey, I enlarged the kids!” It wasn’t a beer commercial. Taken aback, I open up my laptop and search “giant baby TV” or something similar. On YouTube I find the gargantuan infant. He (at least I think it’s a he) is the star of a new commercial for Nationwide Insurance!
I watch it again. And still I’m bewildered. The giant baby is so distracting I miss the point of the commercial. Upon further review, I get the gist of it. The voice over (none other than Julia Roberts) tells us “that’s what’s precious to you is precious to us.”
But I’m still wrong. She’s not talking about protecting your family, of which I assumed the giant baby was a metaphor. They’re talking about car insurance. The baby is a metaphor for this guy’s car. Talk about discombobulating. It took me multiple viewings to sort it all out.
Watch the commercial. Am I crazy or is it just confusing as all hell? I will give it this: the spot got my attention. It also got me to search it out and watch it numerous times on YouTube. So, in a sense, I guess the commercial is a success.
Yet, what stands out to me is the giant baby. It’s just a great, big, weird image and something I can’t associate with car insurance. Maybe if the concept were executed differently? If the VO said “Your car is your baby.” I don’t know. I still would probably have pissed in my Huggies when I saw it/him/her.
One reason to drag TV outside. Name another?
I keep seeing advertising for AT&T’s U-Verse; if I understand it correctly, the primary benefit seems to be the ability to watch TV anywhere you want. Ok, I guess that’s a benefit. Was anyway, like in 2007. With tablets and smartphones, people can now view content on a submarine.
I know… What AT&T is really advertising is the ability for people to watch their big-ass flat screen TV, wirelessly, which means Joe Blow can move his giant LCD from the living room into the backyard (or wherever) and still be able to watch it.
Fair enough. But wireless? You still need electricity. In other words: a wire. Moreover –and this is my bigger issue- in order to watch TV outside one has to schlep the TV outside. Which, despite what this swell how-to video claims, has got to be a royal pain in the ass.
He makes it look so easy…
Not only does a person have to unplug and lug the damn thing to another location (probably requiring help) said persons also have to prepare a safe and secure resting place. This likely means procuring a table (another chore) and setting it up near a power source, far from a no-brainer out of doors. “Honey, do we have an extension chord?” Yup. Another wire.
Is anyone that hard up to watch TV outside?
Frankly, isn’t lack of television one of the main reasons for being outside? Did not our parents constantly beseech us to “stop watching the idiot box and get our butts out of the house?”
One commercial in U-Verse’s campaign depicts two men watching a ballgame in a backyard. Fun in theory. But not when you consider all the above-mentioned hassles. Furthermore, now these two knuckleheads are further away from the bathroom, refreshments and a consistent climate. God forbid, bad weather rolls in. Rain and electronics are a bad mix. And even on a perfect day isn’t it then almost impossible discerning the picture? Either way, scrambling to drag a large TV back into the living room is an accident waiting to happen.
Unless I’m seriously missing something, I have to conclude U-Verse’s primary “benefit” is a novelty at best. A nightmare at worst. One of those things that seem cool in an ad but in fact is a big f–king drag.
For the record, I keep questioning my judgment on account of all the money AT&T is spending advertising U-Verse. (Surely, there must be more to it?) I’ve seen numerous 30-second executions airing during some of the most expensive programming, like the NFL. I find it hard to believe an advertiser would spend this many millions to sell a glorified novelty item.