Ford to Cadillac: Not Everyone in America Is a Materialistic Jerk

A blog about business and economics.
March 31 2014 1:48 PM

Ford Skewers Cadillac With Perfect Parody of “Poolside” Ad

screen_shot_20140331_at_1.27.57_pm
N'est-ce pas?

Screengrab from YouTube

Why do you work? To get more stuff, or to help improve the world?

Ford is banking on the latter to resonate with idealistic consumers across America and really anyone who was put off by a crassly materialistic ad Cadillac released during the Olympics in February. In case you missed it, the original “Poolside” ad featured Neal McDonough lecturing about the supremacy of the American work ethic as he surveys his pool, strides through his expansive house, slips on a suit, and then revs up his Cadillac. Here's an excerpt:

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 hardworking believers, that’s why. … It’s pretty simple. You work hard, you create your own luck, and you’ve got to 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?
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Not surprisingly, many weren’t thrilled with the shallowness and materialism portrayed in the Cadillac ad, and last week Ford capitalized on that displeasure. In a new video, Ford rewrites the Cadillac framework to star Pashon Murray, founder of sustainable agriculture company Detroit Dirt, who walks among compost heaps and through community gardens as she explains her quest to make the world better:

Me, I collect food scraps from restaurants. Manure from zoos. Manure. Do you know why? To keep the stuff out of landfills and use it to make good rich dirt, that’s why. Yeah, look, it’s pretty simple. You work hard, you believe that anything is possible, and you try to make the world better. You try. As for helping the city grow good green healthy vegetables, that’s the upside of giving a damn. N'est-ce pas?

The message Ford is sending is pretty clear: Which do you want to be, America? One of Cadillac’s condescending “crazy-driven hardworking believers” who sneer at the work ethic of other nations? Or a “crazy entrepreneur trying to make the world better.” Sure, the ads cater to different demographics. But in this case, Cadillac’s message flew way off mark while Ford’s was right on target.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

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