Cadillac's aggressively American "Poolside" commercial being shown during the Sochi Olympics already was essentially in the can when Uwe Ellinghaus took over as the brand's CMO a few months ago, so his practical influence on the controversial tone of the ad was limited.
But there was one big decision he could still make to affect the commercial that stars Neal McDonough as an American who's proud of his American work ethic, American-style material success, and American car that demonstrates why Americans have it all over lazy Europeans—and European luxury car brands.
Ellinghaus told brandchannel it was he who decided to have the ad tout the new Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid rather than another model he didn't identify. The timing of the sales launch of the car would coincide perfectly with the brand's Sochi sponsorship and the debut of the commercial, he concluded.
And besides, what better chance to get traction for his repositioning of the Cadillac brand than to underscore its most technologically advanced and adventurous product to date?
"It's the most progressive statement Cadillac has in the market," Ellinghaus said. "So I said, why don't we use this 'Poolside' commercial for ELR?" During tentpole events such as the Olympics, he said, "You have a reach that you have on very few other occasions during the year."
In his few months at Cadillac after coming over from BMW marketing and brand strategy, Cadillac has posted a 22 percent increase in 2013 sales over 2012, and has garnered kudos for its new ATS and CTS. But Ellinghaus has determined that "we need to build desirability for Cadillac and surprise people positively in ways they've never seen Cadillac before. And this TV commercial is slightly polarizing and bold for sure."
Ellinghaus also wanted to make sure that, in this era when the all-electric Tesla Model S is finding strong appeal for electromobility among luxury-car buyers, there was no mistaking in "Poolside" that Cadillac was promoting its own electrified vehicle, which essentially is a highly refined and differentiated sibling of the Chevrolet Volt.
"I thought it would be a nice surprise effect if it featured the car that was visibly recognizable as one with an electric drivetrain," Ellinghaus explained. "So [McDonough] unplugs it" in the ad. "It's a deliberate decision I made."
Cadillac sold only 41 ELR units in January, its first month of availability. But if Ellinghaus, McDonough and the brawny new ad running during the Olympics have any influence, US dealers will be moving a lot more ELRs beginning in February.