Oscars: Cadillac to Unveil New Brand Identity During Telecast (Video)

Richard Linklater in Cadillac ad

Best director nominee Richard Linklater ('Boyhood') and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak appear in "Dare Greatly" spots that introduce Cadillac's forthcoming CT6 luxury sedan.

Cadillac will unveil the first salvo in what it hopes will be a game-changing marketing campaign during today's Oscar telecast.

Four spots will air during the ceremony, each based on the theme "Dare Greatly," the slogan for the 112-year-old carmaker's new brand identity created by the French advertising giant Publicis.

One of the spots, backed unironically by Edith Piaf's 1960 recording "Non, je ne regrette rien" ("No Regrets"), features Richard Linklater, a best director nominee for Boyhood, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

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Linklater's appearance is accompanied by the caption: "How dare a director take 12 years to shoot one film."

The spots, photographed in dreamy slow motion in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood, Cadillac's new corporate home, are meant to "totally disrupt people's perception of Cadillac,"  Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac's marketing chief, tells The Hollywood Reporter.

The earnest ads are also a palliative to Cadillac's caustic spot from last year's Oscars, which featured a grating 1-percenter extolling the virtues of the American workaholic ethic that ignited a firestorm of negative reactions on social media.

Despite fielding well-regarded cars like the CTS, ATS and Escalade, Cadillac has struggled to compete with Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, which logged record U.S. sales in 2014 while Cadillac sales languished.

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The "Dare Greatly" slogan, taken from a speech delivered by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in 1910, recalls Apple's brand-bolstering "Think Different" campaign and is an attempt to reconnect Cadillac's image with its legacy as an innovator — "how future-oriented this brand was," Ellinghaus said in an interview. "The challenge is not that we are having an awareness issue — Cadillac doesn't have a bad reputation at all. We lack relevance, particularly with younger buyers, Generations X and Y." 

The Oscar spots offer a sneak preview of the CT6 luxury sedan, to be unveiled in March and priced at around $76,000. The CT6 is Cadillac's bid to compete directly with top-of-the-line best-selling luxury cars like the Mercedes S-550, Audi A8 and BMW 7 Series which, along with Tesla's Model S, are the default luxury cars for Hollywood's power players.

Asked about competitor Lincoln Motors' much-parodied ad campaign featuring Matthew McConaughey — which spiked sales for Lincoln's MKC crossover SUV and refurbished the brand's stodgy image — Ellinghaus said, "This is exactly what we are not doing. The protagonists we feature are people who dare greatly, not brand ambassadors."

As for the synchronicity of Academy Award nominee Linklater's appearance in the ads airing during the ceremony's telecast, Ellinghaus quipped, "Wouldn't that be nice if he received an Oscar?"

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