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.



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