GM’s Cadillac to Debut Ads During Olympics to Fight BMW

Cadillac to Debut Ads During Olympics to Fight BMW’s 3 Series
IHS Automotive has estimated that Cadillac will sell 15,000 of the ATS this year and 60,000 next year, including a coupe version that it expects in 2013. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

General Motors Co., which begins selling the new Cadillac ATS compact car in August, will introduce a television ad campaign during the Olympics next week, marking the start of its battle against the BMW 3 Series.

The campaign, which will include more than 40 ads and online videos and was filmed in Monaco, Morocco, China and Chile, will help GM set the tone for its new compact sedan as the brand tries to attract entry-level luxury customers and driving enthusiasts. GM wants to sell more than 50,000 of the vehicle annually, Don Butler, Cadillac vice president for marketing, said yesterday in an interview.

“Because of what it means for the brand, it’s really, really important,” Butler said of the ads. “We need to change the basis of the conversation around Cadillac” to “show that we can be vibrant and relevant to a younger audience.”

Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson wants to make Cadillac and Chevrolet the Detroit-based automaker’s two global brands. He’s pushing Cadillac to expand luxury sales and for the brand to grow in the U.S. and China to help offset declining high-margin truck sales. Cadillac sales in the U.S. slid 17 percent in first half of the year.

Butler declined to say how much GM is spending on the campaign for the ATS, Cadillac’s first compact car in about 25 years.

“The biggest challenge for Cadillac remains the hurdle to convince the import buyers that they should look at the brand,” Jesse Toprak, an industry analyst with, said in a telephone interview.

Mercedes, BMW

Cadillac’s first-half U.S. sales totaled 62,812 cars and trucks as deliveries declined with the phaseout of the STS and DTS sedans to make way for the XTS large sedan during the second quarter.

Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz led sellers of luxury vehicles in the market during the period with 128,595 followed by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW brand at 126,504. BMW beat Mercedes last year by 2,715 deliveries. The results don’t include Daimler’s Sprinter vans and Smart cars and BMW’s Mini brand, which aren’t luxury vehicles.

“It’s an absolute challenge,” Butler said. “We are the spirited challenger.” The executive was interviewed in Dawsonville, Georgia, near Atlanta.

Cadillac’s advertising must establish an image for the ATS and show how it’s different than the CTS mid-sized sedan, Rebecca Lindland, an industry analyst with IHS Automotive, said in a telephone interview.

ATS Challenge

The challenge for ATS is “nobody knows what that is,” she said. “It is an incredibly challenging segment in that you’re talking about people who are generally making their foray into luxury and so they’re very image conscious.”

IHS Automotive has estimated that Cadillac will sell 15,000 of the ATS this year and 60,000 next year, including a coupe version that it expects in 2013.

The new campaign, which will debut during the Olympics’ opening ceremony on July 27 on Comcast Corp.’s NBC, includes spots that showcase the car in adventures on the deserts of Morocco and the streets of Monaco. The car drives through the Guoliang Tunnel in China and deals with the high winds in Patagonia.

While the spots begin with the Olympics, the bulk of the ad spending will occur in September as the vehicle becomes available for customers in dealer showrooms, Butler said.

“We have to come big,” he said of the ads. “We can’t be passive, we can’t just hope that people find us. We’ve got to be big and bold and make a statement -- almost to the point of being brash but not brash, a little bit of swagger.”

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