Cadillac using Theodore Roosevelt speech for Oscars ad

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Cadillac will use Sunday's 87th Academy Awards broadcast to relaunch the brand and reshape its image to compete against German luxury cars.

The General Motors Co. luxury brand will air three all-new commercials during the awards show, including one ad that doesn't show any Cadillacs. That commercial is intended as a prelude to Cadillac's new advertising campaign and brand mentality.

The spot is set to President Theodore Roosevelt's "Citizenship in a Republic" speech delivered at the University of Paris in 1910. The ad's title, "The Arena," and social media hashtag, #DareGreatly, are taken from the speech.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better," says a female voice-over. "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

The Super Bowl-esque ad, posted on YouTube this week, is in slow motion. It was filmed in New York City, where Cadillac's new headquarters will be located. It shows scenes of the city: people walking, taxi cabs, buildings, trees, birds flying.

Cadillac built anticipation for the new ads by posting a five-minute video of a blank white-screen on YouTube on Feb. 12. Its intent was to figuratively wipe the slate clean, as the brand revamps its social media platforms as well as

Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell said 60-second and 30-second versions of "The Arena" will air during the Oscars.

"This is really redefining the statement of our core values," he said, adding the two other Oscars ads will take "the theme further." Caldwell declined to comment on the other commercials.

Robert Kolt, a Michigan State University advertising instructor, doesn't believe the commercial will sell one car, but it's a great prelude for a new ad campaign and brand looking to re-establish itself as a luxury leader.

"They're trying to set up the story to tell a new version of Cadillac," said Kolt, who is president and CEO of Okemos-based Kolt Communications advertising and public relations. "This is a new beginning, a new launch for the brand. This is exciting."

The new Cadillac pitch seems reminiscent of the 2011 "Born of Fire" Super Bowl ad featuring Detroit rapper Eminem driving through the Motor City in a Chrysler 200. That spot featured landscapes of Detroit and a voice-over discussion about the passion of the city.

Kolt believes the Cadillac ad is far more artistic than the gritty Chrysler 200 spot.

"It has a great sort of feel for the Academy Award audience," he said. "It's really an emotional, inspirational kind of story you would tell in the movies. People will think what's next, and we'll have to see if they deliver."

Using a president's speech for a voice-over is nothing new. It was done in a Super Bowl commercial this year for Carnival Cruise Lines. The ad used President John F. Kennedy's speech for the America's Cup crews in 1962.

The new Cadillac campaign is the first from Publicis Worldwide, the agency that replaced Detroit-based Lowe Campbell Ewald. Publicis is the largest agency of Paris-based Publicis Groupe. Its U.S. base is in New York.

GM has faced some criticism for its decision to move Cadillac operations, including its headquarters, from Detroit to New York. Cadillac confirmed in September it would move the hub for its brand away from the Motor City as it tries to grow globally, attract younger buyers and establish a fresh identity in the competitive luxury market.

Cadillac's sales fell 6.5 percent in the U.S. last year to fewer than 171,000 — the only one of GM's four brands to shrink — but Cadillac was up slightly worldwide.

The campaign comes as Cadillac plans to invest $12 billion and add eight new vehicles by 2020. De Nysschen previously said its new-product rollout "would really start hitting" in late '17, '18 and '19. Cadillac unveiled the ATS-V at the Detroit auto show in January, and will debut its flagship CT6 sedan March 31 at the New York International Auto Show.


To see the new Cadillac commercial, go to