I come not to pile on GM at this painful moment of possible million-car recall -- but rather, to praise “Poolside.”
Created by Rogue as a “brand provocation” for the Cadillac ELS, it’s an unforgettable spot, starring actor Neal McDonough as a brash, flame-haired man without pity.
We watch him hustle around his upscale suburban manor, past pool and tightly architected interiors, barely stopping to high-five his own daughter, like she’s a top employee, as he delivers his macho American capitalist screed. Obviously, he’s a high-octane guy, and we’re lucky to have caught him pre-aneurysm.
He’s all about his love of hard work and long hours, and hatred of those pathetic Gallic wusses who require four weeks of “vacation.”
Anyway, changing into his skinny suit, he strides out of his manse to his car in the driveway. Throwing out another bit of pretentious French (“n’est-ce pas?”) and a wink, he gets into his $70,000 CLR luxury plug-in hybrid.
Say what? Wouldn’t this Master of the Universe otherwise curse all kale-eating, hemp-sandaled tree-huggers and the sad little hybrids/electric cars they drove in on?
That seemed to me the only inconsistency in an otherwise blindingly original, fire-breathing spot. Rather than showing the usual curvy roads or cushy interiors (never mind never mentioning MPGs), this is a commercial all about consumer beliefs, aimed unapologetically at those who aspire to be the one-percent.
Thus, both revered and reviled, the spot has become a part of the cultural conversation, which makes it a win for Cadillac. The writing and stereotypes, however, also make it eminently parody-able.
And last week, Team Detroit did just that for Ford, with “Upside," a spot made on about a tenth of the Cadillac budget, and uploaded to YouTube for zero media dollars.
To say it’s a scrappy challenger underestimates the captivating presence of Pashon Murray, an aptly named real person who is the passionate founder of Detroit Dirt, a sustainability advocacy group.
The camera loves this woman and her happening Dante de Blasio-style hair. And man, she is down to earth. In pretty much a shot-for-shot redux, we find Murray in work clothes and boots, standing in front of a pool of dirt, as she talks about her polar opposite values: caring about locally grown food sources and the entrepreneurs who work to compost food scraps and manure into “good, rich dirt.”
She’s a natural, performing her version of the walk and talk of the Cadillac ad while honoring the real walk and talk in her own life.
Advertising really needs more real people with inspiring stories like this. Working hard to do good for the planet -- and growing local food resources -- that’s a pretty powerful counterpunch to Cadillac man and his manic badge of sleeplessness.
Moreover, form follows function in that after Murray cleans up into a pant suit, she stands next to her Ford C-Max hybrid, plugged in a garage. The car is at the lower end in pricing -- more like $30,000. But in this context, the message for an electric car makes way more sense.
I have one cavil with the spot. Murray should have mentioned the word “compost.” That would better explain what she does, and why she collects food scraps -- and, as she mentions so straightforwardly, “manure.”
The Ford spot ends with a great line: “Helping a city grow good vegetables, that’s the upside of giving a damn. N’est-ce pas?”
It’s a damn good ad. In the end, I too have to turn to the language of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys, and say, “Vive la difference.”