Cadillac and Audi Ham It Up in a Battle of the Hippest

There’s a subtle rivalry brewing in the luxury car business. Audi and Cadillac are both hamming it up with television advertising to make the case that they’re the hip antidote to stodgy traditional luxury (read: Mercedes). In recent ads, both of them have new commercials loaded with imagery painting luxury as cold and stuffy as they take a fun stab at old money.

One of Cadillac’s newest ads depicts an older couple having an anniversary dinner at their long dining room table. Actor Laurence Fishburne intones, “blue-blooded, cold.” Cut to racy imagery: a motorcycle roaring down the highway, a young guy eyeballing a beautiful woman in a glass elevator. The ad eventually goes to a Cadillac CTS and Fishburne asks, “What happened to luxury? Where did the personality go?” The point, of course, is that Cadillac brings something new and edgy to the luxury market. The theme is “red-blooded luxury.”

Audi takes it a step further. On one of the German brand’s newest ads is an obvious play off the classic Margaret Wise Brown kids’ book “Goodnight Moon,” with a vaguely creepy animated fox fur and other classic luxury items such as a well-coiffed French poodle and gold cuff links. “Goodnight outdated. Goodnight stuffy,” the ad says. “Good night old luxury and all of your wares.” Then we see a Mercedes sedan. Its lights go out. The ad concludes with a beauty shot of an Audi A8 sedan and we hear, “good morning, innovation. Good morning, unequalled inspiration.”

Audi likes throwing down the gauntlet before its German rivals. The brand has taken on BMW several times. Audi actually staked its claim as the newest and coolest luxury brand several years ago with an ad that had an old rich man waking up to the grille of his big luxury car in his bed. It’s a knockoff of the horse’s head from “The Godfather.”

So who has the better shout? Both brands are growing fast, Audi sales rose 23% last year and Cadillac was up 35%. Cadillac sells almost 50% more vehicles. But in terms of burnishing the brand as the coolest newcomer, Audi has the edge. Its average buyer makes more money. The A8 is a legitimate competitor to the Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series flagship sedans. Audi’s A4, which is smaller than the Cadillac CTS, attracts nouveau luxe buyers. Cadillac is still working on cars to battle it out in those two vital market segments. Plus, Cadillac marketers readily admit that they are trying to expunge the image of old, stuffy Cadillac. You have to appreciate the moxie shown by both brands.

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