I missed the original hubbub about a TV commercial Cadillac ran during the Superbowl in early February, but I did see an editorial in The Atlantic comparing the Cadillac commerical to a follow-up commercial by Ford.
At least some of the conversation about the commercials can be boiled down to this: Cadillac is materialistic, even jingoistic, and Ford promotes environmental stewardship and standing up for the little guy, who may be a no-nonsense business woman.
Beyond the fact that some critics of Cadillac seemed to miss the point—Cadillac created a commercial that met its performance objectives by holding people’s attention, sticking in their minds, and causing a lot of buzz and sharing—I think the two commercials highlight how conflicted we are about our consumption.
Is it okay to buy a new car if you also talk about reducing your environmental footprint, but not okay to buy a new car if your goal is to enjoy your ride to work? Note that even though the positioning is different (luxury brand versus eco-friendly brand), both commercials feature hybrid electric cars that probably have similar performance attributes.
In her conclusion, the author of the Atlantic editorial touches on how smart marketing can assuage our consumption conflict (we are different! we are idealists!), allowing us to continue buying stuff.
“…in the small bit of wiggle room Ford allowed itself for toying with Cadillac’s message, we see a different vision of America—one that values its idealists, not its crass materialists,” writes Rebecca Rosen. “As long as they buy cars, that is.“