…those who get it, get it anyway. Those who don’t, never will.” Have you seen the ad for the new Cadillac ELR? It features a very smug 40-something actor, Neal McDonough, strolling through his Dwell magazine-perfect house, kissing his beautiful wife, high-fiving his beautiful kids, and showing off all his tastefully extravagant belongings while pontificating on the materialistic benefits of our consumer society.
“Why do we work so hard? For what? For this? For stuff?
“Other countries they work, they stroll home, they stop by the café. They take August off. Off. Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t we like that? Because we’re crazy driven hard-working believers, that’s why.
“Those other countries think we’re nuts. Whatever. Were the Wright brothers insane? Bill Gates, Les Paul, Ali? Were we nuts when we pointed to the moon? That’s right, we went up there you know what we got? Bored. So we left. Got a car up there, left the keys in it. You know why? Because we’re the only ones going back up there; that’s why.
“But I digress.
“It’s pretty simple you work hard, you create your own luck and you gotta believe anything is possible. As for all the stuff, that’s the upside of only taking two weeks off in August. N’est-ce pas?”
If you spend as much thinking about these things as I do, you might notice that besides being beautifully shot and perfectly art-directed, this ad presents a never-before-seen amalgam of righty American exceptionalism and lefty aesthetics and eco-sensitive electric automobiles. Kind of like the ‘Madison Avenue’ version of the person who says they’re “socially liberal and economically conservative,” it’s a mash-up of two previously mutually exclusive mindsets.
Which brings up an interesting question — exactly what is Cadillac trying to say with this spot? Is the ad tongue-in-cheek and poking ironic fun at our quest for stuff? Or is Cadillac seriously going after the specific demographic that will identify with the ad’s protagonist and his beliefs?
I posted it on Facebook and got some fascinating and different points of view.
Brian Walters wrote: “I reacted to it the way I think they wanted. It was fun, cocky and impishly arrogant. The actor smirked just enough for us to know he wasn’t being too literal. And I do think it is smart to have the electric car be the hero at the end. It was a surprise ending. I say kudos.”
Steve Sauls said: “My first reaction was that the ad is xenophobic and negative and that the ad was designed to appeal to a narrow, calculated market to bring them back to Cadillac from BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.”
Most of my friends thought it was pretty funny. My wife and daughter hated it.
What I think is that we’re seeing the next logical evolution of the Prius phenomenon. You might remember that when it was first released, Toyota’s little doorstop-shaped hybrid wedge became the instant darling of the Hollywood elite – including Gwneyth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Orlando Bloom, Natalie Portman, Cameron Diaz, and even Harrison Ford. Why? Because unlike the equally efficient but visually indistinguishable Honda Civic Hybrid, the unique shape of the Prius announced to the world that its driver cared about the environment while all the prosaic Honda said was, “I’m driving a cheap car.”
I don’t think Cadillac is being ironic at all. Instead, I think that what you see is what you get. What Cadillac is saying is that regardless of the rest of the world going to hell in a handbasket, you can have your cake and eat it too. Buy their new ELR and you can own all the neat toys you want, think you’re successful and superior, AND tell the world that you care. Even if you really don’t.
All in all, a pretty good deal for an MSRP of only $82,135.