Cadillac standards aim for classier ads
Rules outlaw 'below-invoice' and such
Don Butler: No "screaming"
DETROIT -- Cadillac is rolling out its first-ever nationwide advertising standards for individual dealerships, part of a broader effort to burnish its luxury bona fides as it looks to compete more directly with German rivals.
The national ad requirements dictate everything from forbidding terms such as "below-invoice" and "off sticker" to requiring at least a quarter-inch space between Cadillac and Chevrolet newspaper ads. The rules begin to take effect next month.
"We want Cadillac communication to always be done in a very luxurious way -- no screaming discounts, no below-invoice sales," Cadillac marketing boss Don Butler told Automotive News. "Even for the multifranchise dealer, they still have to act and behave in the way that our Cadillac customers would expect," he said.
Lexus, Mercedes and several other luxury automakers long have had advertising standards for individual dealers.
The effective dates for Cadillac's new rules are Feb. 1 for print ads, March 1 for TV and radio spots and April 1 for digital ads.
The standards have teeth. First-time violators get a warning, say dealers who have read the new rules. For a second offense, General Motors will reduce the amount that the dealer gets reimbursed for ad expenses through its local marketing allowance, a pool of money that both dealers and GM feed.
For a third offense within a 12-month period, a dealer will forfeit a month's worth of cooperative ad money and become ineligible for year-end awards, such as the GM Dealer of the Year award, dealers said.
Butler said enforcement of the rules will start in the second half of the year.
Carl Sewell: Council approves
Cadillac's National Dealer Council was in favor of raising the quality of Cadillac's marketing, said Carl Sewell, the council's co-chairman. The goal is "managing the advertising messages to make sure they're at a high level" and not focused on the deal, he said.
The new rules require pre-approval of print and broadcast ads from an outside marketing firm. Butler says that the turnaround time will be less than 24 hours. But some dealers worry about that added step.
One Cadillac dealer in a Midwest metro market said he typically decides sometime midweek whether to run a newspaper ad on Saturday. The deadline to get the ad to the paper typically is late Thursday, he said.
"The problem comes if they require us to make a change," the dealer said, adding that he generally supports Cadillac raising its standards. "We're going have to get more organized and plan our media buys further in advance."
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