Experiential Brand of the Year 2023: Cadillac


When Cadillac CMO Melissa Grady Dias charged Jack Morton Worldwide to come up with an exhibit for the grounds of the U.S. Open, the agency team immediately did the most logical thing—they split for Las Vegas.

Not to hit the slots, though. “We took a field trip—we went to all the immersive exhibitions there,” said Jack Morton senior vice president Julie Levinthal.

They stopped at the Van Gogh exhibit to be enveloped by 90-million-pixel video walls of the famed impressionist’s paintings. They walked through Marvel’s Avengers expo, a high-tech repository of superhero equipment. And they gawked at the Sphere, the immersive video concert venue that cost $2.3 billion to build.

When they got home, they built the Cadillac Electriq Theater.

The pop-up might not have been as muscular as Marvel or venerable as Van Gogh, but it delivered a multisensory wallop that felt far bigger than its modest footprints at the U.S. and Miami Opens. 

After filing past a gleaming Lyriq crossover parked under spotlights, visitors encountered a placard announcing, “Welcome to Our All-Electric Future,” before entering a projection chamber. Inside, a 360-degree video blossomed in digital pageantry, whisking spectators from Cadillac’s postwar era of big-finned land yachts and into the automaker’s all-electric future. The projections erased the boundaries between walls and floor, giving viewers the feeling that they were suspended within the presentation.

“It’s one thing to do TV [spots] and social [ads], but a fully immersive environment completely transports the consumer away from whatever environment they’re in and brings them into our world,” said Victoria Schmidt, Cadillac’s manager of brand partnerships and experiences.

“Lyriq was Cadillac’s first EV, and we did have a full marketing plan,” added Eric Neville, Cadillac’s associate director of performance marketing. “But the idea was, how do we create an environment [that] changes their view of Cadillac without actually having them in the car?

Indeed, while the CGI bravura was entertaining on its own (surreal landscapes, purple waterfalls, spiral galaxies and so on), there was serious branding being done here. Cadillac aimed to nudge people away from associating the brand with grumbling, gas-thirsty V-8s and to start thinking about it as a battery-electric leader. At the same time, the automaker wanted to stay grounded in its 120-year reputation as America’s luxury nameplate of record.

To that end, the video opened with photographs of cultural icons like Muhammad Ali, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe posing with their Cadillacs before leaping ahead to show dramatic, grayscale renderings of the Lyriq, Escalade IQ and Celestiq vehicles for 2024 and beyond.

For an experiential installation like this, the venue was as important as the show. Attendees of the Open boast an average household income of $262,000—which helps when the Lyriq’s sticker price starts at around $57,000.

“We know our buyer is at the U.S. and Miami Opens,” Schmidt said. The theater was “a unique way to bridge the gap between tennis fans and what we’re doing.”

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