Conflicted about consumption?

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.

2 thoughts on “Conflicted about consumption?

  1. I missed the Ford commercial, but I very much so remember the Cadillac one. It immediately caught my attention for the questions it was asking. I was like, wow! awesome!… well, that is, until he started answering them.. then I felt disgusted.

    I feel like Americans are mostly viewed as gluttonous, materialistic, never satisfied, step-on-whomever-for-whatever-a$$holes and this, to me, was spot on in depicting just that. I choose to work part time instead of full; I choose a small house instead of a large house; I choose to repair my used car instead of buying new. But, in a capitalist society that needs ever increasing growth, that isn’t helpful, so it’s not the message that’s spread.. and therefore not the message that’s idealized.. and not the message that’s followed.

    Tricky, though, for Ford to try to convince the green-minded, recycling, middle class that they would be doing “good” to buy Ford’s new $35,000 car. …I almost “bought” it. (Pun intended)

  2. I had not seen those, but I am sometimes conflicted about consumption. With time I find it easier to resist. But there are so many temptations. I remind myself that acquiring does not make me happier… it simply gives me a short lived high. Not acquiring, or getting rid of stuff, however, does make me happy. 🙂

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