Debating Ford versus Cadillac? You don’t get it.

Are folks seriously debating which car is more aspirational… the Cadillac ELR or the Ford C-Max Energi? Let’s just agree that two teams of “mad men” just got our collective goat.

Glued to TV coverage of the Olympics a few weeks ago? You might have spotted an obnoxiously brilliant commercial from Cadillac. The “Poolside” spot features the appropriately-casted Neil McDonough as he waxes unapologetically about “American exceptionalism” and how that translates into his wealthy lifestyle. And that he deserves all of it.

Cadillac Neal McDonoughIt’s obnoxious. It’s silly. It’s ridiculous. And it’s exactly the point Cadillac wants to make. Caddy is working hard to shake its image as the old man’s luxury car. They’re doing quite well with offerings that rival Audi, BMW and now, Tesla. Their designs are moving away from stodgy gas-guzzlers to a sexy joie de vivre that challenges Audi’s recent decade of dominance and BMW’s supposed “lock” on the performance luxury segment.

But it’s more than that. Cadillac is tapping into something much more visceral… our perceptions. They are reality, after all. Whether you’ve admitted it or not, we all have opinions about hybrid cars (cute little Priuses and obnoxious Tahoes), we all have opinions about the so-called 1%, and we all have opinions about those crazy Europeans who place such high value on family and leisure time.

There’s nothing more American about this TV spot. It speaks to the “American dream.” It represents our vision of that dream. There is no more basic image of this idea than the big house with a pool and a nice car in the driveway.

Cadillac tapped into that. It’s great advertising.

Ford Pasho MurrayThis week, Ford thought they were taking the high road in calling-out Caddy’s folly in their “Upside” parody. Cadillac won. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Ford’s faux-altruistic attempt to manipulate folks into thinking “responsible.” And I get it. We should be having that conversation. We don’t need giant houses and $70k cars. We do need to be better stewards for our world and for each other.

But until that value replaces the classic idea of the “American dream,” people will continue to dream of a Caddy, Bimmer or Audi in their 3 car garage.

No one dreams of a owning a bland Ford econo-box.

“Poolside”

“Upside”

In the interest of full-disclosure… there is both an Audi and a BMW in my driveway. Why? Because we wanted them. 

4 Comments

  1. Carol Dearnaley 31 Mar 14 at 6:20 pm #

    Sorry, Paul, I disagree.  I still believe that the average age of a Cadillac owner is 75.  Everything about that misogynistic, chest thumping little vignette would make me think 10 or 12 times about considering buying a Cadillac.  As for the perceptions?  Mad Men was 50 years ago and the attitude on that guy and the assumed “woman’s place is in the home” feeling as he passes through the kitchen was galling.  I guess it is the “American dream,” if you’re a man.  
    As for the Ford ad?  It’s refreshing – and it strikes a cord with the younger consumer, who is more tuned in to the environment.  The Ford ad is tapping into those who are just starting out and Cadillac?  They are pitching to those who are heading into their sunset years – perhaps the last car they buy?  And let’s talk about the two actors – women don’t tend to like men who swagger like that, yes, we  can appreciate a swagger, but not like that – and we tend to react negatively to those who do.  As for “Ms. Ford,” as you have pointed out, she highlights the possible.  The sendup is wonderful – the world of the stick in the mud has it all Mr. Cadillac vs. the hip chick on her way up – which one do you think the young consumer will identify with?  Oh, and if it came down to a choice between the ridiculously boring Prius and the sort of boring Ford – I’ll take the Ford – as someone once said the Prius looks like something your maiden aunt who collects egg cups and wear sweaters with embroidered with pictures of her Yorkies would buy.

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  2. kemipa 31 Mar 14 at 7:04 pm #

    Love this. Cadillac totally knew this would instigate into all these reactions. The ad is so over the top… For what? A $70k two seater that gets less than 40 miles to a charge? This ad may very catapult them into better contention with Euro-luxe cars. I doubt very many people aspire to be this guy, but in our own way, we all aspire to have “stuff.” Very few if us don’t.
    It’s obnoxious and all the other things you ascribe to it. And that’s exactly why Caddy made the ad… To be provocative.
    I hope it was the intent of GM to instigate a conversation.

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  3. Carol Dearnaley 31 Mar 14 at 8:03 pm #

    kemipa Keith,  I think you are giving General Motors far too much credit.  With less than 40 miles to a charge, it is a granddaddy car – they don’t go that far from home anyway – how’s that for being prejudiced –  I think they believe their own press.

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