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Vanzura Shaking Things Up At Cadillac

Posted by: David Kiley on March 3, 2006


It didn’t take Liz Vanzura long to leave her mark on Cadillac. Just a month after taking over as global marketing director at Cadillac, she sent about half the Caddy ad work from Leo Burnett to Boston, MA-based Modernista—about $150 million to $200 million worth. Modernista is the ad agency that handles Hummer,and produces arguably the best and most consistent ad work for the automaker. Vanzura was marketing chief on Hummer before going to Caddy.

So, is Vanzura just someone who can orchestrate good advertising when she has her pet agency? No. She proved at Volkswagen in the late 1990s that she had a good eye and ear for advertising. She worked with Arnold Worldwide to create some extremely memorable and effective advertising. At Arnold, the best VW work was created by a team that included Lance Jensen, who left to found Modernista.

The Cadillac ad work has bene sliding for two years. One unremarkable ad after another. The exception was a campaign done a year ago that solicited 5-second films about what can happen in five seconds. The campaign tied into the launch of Cadillac’s V-Series CTS, which goes from zero-to 60 on five seconds. The effort had a tie in with John Travolta and Kill Bill: Vol. 2, with Travolta shilling for the Caddy movies.

GM sales and marketing chief Mark Laneve, who earned his cred at GM by fixing the brand strategy at Cadillac, put Vanzura on the case. Modernista will handle national and regional advertising for Cadillac’s CTS sedan, SRX crossover, performance V-Series models and other unnamed cross-brand projects. While leo Burnett will keep the ad work for Escalade, DTS, STS and XLR roadster car lines, look for the Boston agency to wind up with the whole enchilada if they do well with what they have been given.

So, why has Leo Burnett been dogging it on Cadillac? It’s a combination of two things. One, Vanzura just got there, and her predecessors that have been there after LaNeve left simply do not have the right instincts and judgement to know great ads from pedestrian ads. Second: sometomes agencies that have had an account for a long time suffer inertia. Even when they cycle in new creative talent, the organization simply loses the knack for getting it right.

The difference between getting an ad campaign, or even a single ad, right and wrong usually comes down to having the right two people in the room. The client has to be right and the agency creative has to be right, and they have to both have good judgement and be on the same page. That’s a rare thing in the ad business. But Vanzura and Jensen seem to have it right.



News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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