Why Cadillac went all in on the Oscars

CMO Melissa Grady explains why the luxury car brand betted on the Academy Awards for the eighth year in a row.

The Oscars is the biggest night in Hollywood, but the general public is steadily losing interest in the awards show. 

That didn’t stop Cadillac from premiering its new campaign, “Lighting the Way,” during the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday evening on ABC. The spot highlights the Lyriq, the luxury car brand’s first, all-electric, zero emission vehicle.

Cadillac chose the Oscars for the launch because of the brand’s “long-standing” eight-year partnership with the program, Melissa Grady, Cadillac’s chief marketing officer, told Campaign US. The ceremony also puts people in “cinematic mode,” presenting an opportunity to tell “unique stories” and launch new campaigns.

In a year devoid of live events, the in-person format of the awards show was appealing to Cadillac, a factor Grady hoped would also strike a chord with viewers. Unlike the Golden Globes in February, the Oscars enforced a strict “no Zoom” policy, instead sitting nominees at tables in Union Station in Los Angeles. 

“It's something that we were keeping an eye on and working very closely with the Academy,” Grady said. “The way they did it really invited people in in a unique way that was really engaging. ”

The spot, created by Leo Burnett, follows a woman who has just brought her company public. She walks through her office and is reminded of the moments that led her to success. The spot ends with the valet driving up in her Lyriq. When the valet exits the vehicle, the woman sees that she’s the driver. “The impact we make comes from the energy we create,” the voiceover says. 

The campaign is about “lightmakers who illuminate the darkness and use their energy to make it a better and brighter place to live,” Grady explained. 

When Cadillac made plans to advertise during this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, “none of us thought that we would not be in person by April,” Grady said. 

Nielsen hasn’t yet released its viewership numbers for the Oscars broadcast, which aired on ABC, so it's unclear how many tuned in to see the spot. 

But awards show viewership has plummeted even more sharply than in years past during the pandemic as in-person productions scaled down. The Grammys viewership was down 53% this year to 9.2 million viewers; the Golden Globes plummeted by 60% to 5.4 million viewers; and the Country Music Awards ratings plunged to 6.1 million viewers, down 20% from the year prior.

But ratings were slipping even before the pandemic. Oscars’ viewership dropped 20% in 2020 with 23.6 million viewers tuning in for the February broadcast, according to Nielsen.

Still, Cadillac wasn’t the only brand betting big on the Oscars. ABC sold out its advertising inventory, with brands like Google, Rolex and Verizon spending an estimated $2 million for a 30-second spot. Last year, the Oscars awards ceremony and ABC’s red carpet pre-show raked in $150 million in ad revenue. Cadillac was the top advertiser, with an estimated $17.2 million in ad spend.

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