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MARKETING: Cadillac, Lexus go for Super Bowl glory

By Jason Stein
Automotive News / January 12, 2004

One carmaker will turn itself belly-up to make a statement about its new sedan. Another will create a stunning air-turbulence effect to show off four key vehicles.

On the marketing world's biggest stage - the Super Bowl - Cadillac and Lexus are preparing to make big news with splashy TV commercials.

Automotive News has learned the details of two high-profile commercials that will debut during pro football's championship game next month in Houston. An industry source says the top-secret ads are expensive and extravagant and took months to develop.

The fact that Cadillac and Lexus are waiting until Feb. 1 to unveil them illustrates the importance of the game. It is still a make-or-break day for marketing campaigns. In the superfragmented modern TV universe, the Super Bowl - with its 30-second ads that cost more than $2 million - has lost none of its steam.

"In the age when advertising is despised as the bad guy, it's the one day when advertising is a friend," says Bernice Kanner, a marketing consultant and the author of the new book The Super Bowl of Advertising: How Commercials Won the Game.

"But it's not just the size of the audience; it's the receptivity," Kanner says. "More people are watching the ads, and the after-bang, the water-cooler effect, can be tremendous. For a car company, it's the Ego Bowl. It's bragging rights, and it gins up the sales team for the rest of the year. The effects are far-reaching."

Creating turbulence

Cadillac avoided Super Bowl broadcasts during the late 1990s, but GM's luxury brand is back for the third straight year in 2004.

An industry source says Cadillac will put most of its effort into a 60-second commercial that will break in the first half of the game, typically when viewership peaks and advertisers expect to make the biggest bang.

Cadillac's main commercial, called "Turbulence," will showcase the 400-hp CTS-V sedan, SRX crossover, Escalade SUV and XLR roadster in Terminator 2-style digital imagery where metal appears like flowing liquid.

"Turbulence" begins on a desert road with the CTS-V appearing as a mirage on the horizon. The vehicle breaks through the mirage as air flows off the car like water. As the CTS-V stops at an intersection, three glints appear at different places on the horizon. They all seem to be moving toward the intersection.

An SRX approaches with the same air-as-water effect, then an Escalade from the opposite direction. As the SRX and Escalade cross in the intersection, they leave a tornado in their wake. As the tornado dissipates, a black XLR appears.

The XLR's roof lowers, revealing the profile of a female driver with the air-as-water effect trailing off her fingernails.

As the XLR drives off, it leaves turbulence in its wake.

The source said nothing about the music.

Chemistri is the ad agency on "Turbulence." The production company is Anonymous Content, and A52 of Los Angeles did the visual effects.

Cadillac is in resurgence. In 2003, it sold 216,090 vehicles in the United States; that's up 8.2 percent from 2002 and the first time above 200,000 since 1994, when it sold 210,686.

The Super Bowl kicks off another year of big expectations for the brand.

"It is expensive being involved with the Super Bowl, and even the bigger companies still gulp at the price," says Mark LaNeve, Cadillac's general manager. "But it's such a unique media property with 80 million viewers. It has been a great way for us to communicate our new design language, and it's still one of the only media properties people watch for the commercials - from ages 10 to 90, and in every geographic and income strata."

Kanner says an effective Super Bowl commercial can reap big rewards.

"There is nothing else that comes near the Super Bowl in the last few years," she says. "It's like this huge Titanic with no iceberg looming. It's not running out of steam. It can serve as a launching pad for the year - and Cadillac knows that."

Showing its 'Dimples'

Lexus is making its first appearance on the Super Bowl telecast in five years.

In a 30-second spot called "Dimples" the automaker shows a GS 430 sedan being rotated on a metal arm upside-down inside a wind tunnel. The commercial highlights the car's dimpled underbody.

As the GS 430 is turned over, a voiceover says: "You'd expect a luxury sedan to have aerodynamic lines. But Lexus engineers went a step further. Dimpled panels were used on the undercarriage to reduce noise and lower wind resistance. So it's aerodynamic from every angle."

Team One Advertising created the Lexus commercial.

Extravagant spectacles

The Cadillac and Lexus spots illustrate the fact that Super Bowl commercials are special. The spots are big, extravagant spectacles.

Good or bad, the effect of a Super Bowl ad is everlasting. Kanner says more than half of the TV audience during the Super Bowl is more interested in the commercials than the game - up from 10 percent 20 years ago, she says. Forty percent of the audience is female.

"And women control the purchases," she says.

Car companies have been Super Bowl advertisers from the event's beginning.

Chrysler and Ford ran ads during the first Super Bowl on Jan. 15, 1967.

Chrysler pushed its Dodge Cornet 440 and its annual Plymouth Dealers Win-You-Over Sale.

Ford created a massive replica of Motor Trend's Car of the Year medallion in the California desert and used cameras in helicopters to film a cougar perched on top of a new Mercury.

The cost of a 30-second Super Bowl spot in 1967 was $42,000 (more than $200,000 in current dollars) compared with $2.3 million for a 30-second spot during the Feb. 1 game.

Thirty-seven years later, Lexus and Cadillac are after the same buzz.

"The Super Bowl is really known as a car lot - this is where you come to if you are shopping for a car, and a commercial there says, 'You are playing with the big boys. You've arrived,'" Kanner says. "It plants the idea. This says, 'Put us on your shopping list.'"

But it is important to keep the Super Bowl hype alive.

Not only does Cadillac buy time in the game; it buys time post-game and on other networks in the following weeks. LaNeve says Cadillac's Super Bowl commercials, which generally take four months to develop, are part of a year-long marketing effort to expand the brand's appeal.

It's great when it works. LaNeve says that when Cadillac flashed an image of the XLR during last year's game, dealers were inundated with requests, and traffic on Cadillac's Web site was extremely heavy.

"Actually, the Super Bowl is risky for us," LaNeve says. "We knew going in we would not be in the top 10 ads in USA Today the following day because we aren't trying to be funny. We knew we'd have a straightforward campaign that showcased the product lineup. But studies have shown our ads are persuasive."

He says that advertising during the game shows your brand is on the move. "It says you have confidence," LaNeve says. "You want America to see what you're all about."

Kanner says the Super Bowl's popularity can be traced to a very simple idea.

"Americans love a party in the blahs in winter," she says. "It's an occasion, and people want an occasion. And if you hit it just right, the Super Bowl can really make you."

1,805 Posts
very interesting,
insane amount of money to spend on advertising but the overall revenue for the ad seems well worth it

586 Posts
Sal Collaziano said:
I didn't see that ad, but I know there's an unside-down LS ad. That's probably the one you're thinking of.. No?
maybe... all the Lexuses look the same to me.... or maybe it was a different show... but it was definitly on sunday night
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