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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cadillac's Reality TV Version of Gran Turismo


I am a performance minded driver. I love watching Top Gear, I watch some racing, follow enthusiast magazine and boards, and I even do performance modifications on my own car. From this foundation, I am a bit of a sucker for performance minded marketing efforts. The latest example in this space is a rather interesting site from Cadillac called The CTS-V Performance Driving Lab.

Cadillac took several drivers to Monticello Motor Club from November 7-9. There drivers were given the opportunity to test the new 556 hp, 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, powerhouse from General Motors. The cool thing is the way Cadillac brought the experience to everyone else by posting everyone’s drive on a website.

Pro driver Andy Pilgrim set a benchmark for the track and then novice track drivers took their tries for the best time. The site shows you three camera angles – cockpit, heads up display, and another showing the turn of the wheel close-up on the brake caliper. You also get to see real-time speed, RPMs, and G-Force numbers. It all gives one the impression of some video game like Gran Turismo. The gauges are real-time too along with a GPS readout in the lower left to see position on the track. All of this is some pretty amazing technology integrated into a great way to showcase the CTS-Vs performance credentials.

But it is it compelling as a marketing tool? I would argue yes and no.

Why Yes?

I can see performance minded consumers checking out a few videos. There are tons of videos all over YouTube showing track times, races, you name it it’s on there. Cadillac did post the Andy Pilgrim video on YouTube, so it is promoting the CTS-V Lab site on YouTube through their MyCadillacStory Channel. I can see why they didn’t just use YouTube as a place to host all the content since most of it is video and it would follow a more natural experience leverging YouTube’s place as where to go for video online. The issue is with all the feedback, real-time data extras that make the experience great and unusual. So, score a big YES for Cadillac on showing how to do real-world performance in an interesting, engaging way on the ‘net.

So Why Yes and No?

It is interesting seeing novice drivers take their shot at the track, but it’s far more interesting to see several experienced drivers compete and show that competition in the way Cadillac so beautifully does in this execution. Plus I think it would be more sought out by performance racing fans that like to see their driver(s) take a stock street legal car for a competitive spin. So, it loses some luster by having novice drivers who are a bit guarded in how the push the performance of the car, as seen in many of the videos. There are just a lot of poor laps on the site, though Cadillac did try to solve this, provided one sees the link for “Fastest Lap Times” that is left dangling from the main navigation.

All in all though I think the site is an interesting take on showcasing a performance car and I commend the team who brought in some nice features and feedback data for true driving fans.
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