In general, getting people talking about your ad is a good way to get people talking about your car.
In the case of "Poolside"--an ad for the 2014 Cadillac ELR range-extended electric luxury coupe aired during the Oscars and the Sochi Olympics--however, not all the talk has been favorable.
In fact, enough of it has been sufficiently negative that Craig Bierley, Cadillac's advertising director, was interviewed about it by Ad Age magazine.
As covered by Automotive News, Bierley says the ad was intended to be a "brand provocation," a mission it seems to have accomplished.
[UPDATE: An Automotive News interview interview with Cadillac marketing chief Uwe Ellinghaus, re-published in Ad Age February 6, adds some new and crucial details. Ellinghaus says he worried that the ad, which originally used a different vehicle, would be seen as "snobby, arrogant, a little aloof"--so he swapped in the plug-in ELR coupe to make it more "socially palatable."
We suspect the original vehicle was intended to be the 2015 Cadillac Escalade, the huge, pricey, bling-laden, truck-based, seven-seat full-size sport-utility vehicle beloved of rappers and celebrities. How do you think the ad would have played against that vehicle?]
Generalizing greatly, right-wing commentators seem to view it as an affirmation of values that have made the U.S. great, while those to the left see it as ugly American chest-thumping and an apologia for the 1 percent.
But Bierley told Ad Age the spot has been misconstrued: It's not aimed at the 1 percent, but merely at self-made customers who've used "hard work and hustle" and are now making $200,000 a year or more.
It's also not about materialism, he says--and indeed, at the start of the ad, actor McDonough dismisses the value of "stuff." The message: Americans work hard because ... we love to work hard.
Nor is it about workaholism, Bierley suggests. While YouTube reaction among the young is 3-to-1 in favor of the ad and its message, he says, it was "not intended" to offend viewers with a paean to overwork when many are just getting by and millions of U.S. workers remain unemployed long-term.
In the end, Bierley says, it's just a car ad--not a greater statement about American values.
Which is directly contrary to Super Bowl ads for Chrysler and Ram vehicles that make overt statements about those values, and how they tie into the vehicles the company builds, in ways that have won almost universal public and critical acclaim.
The ad seemingly bothered some of our own audience when we first wrote about it on February 10, generated heated debate in more than 300 comments thus far.
One was our reader Bree, who wrote that she "was so bothered by this commercial I wrote to Cadillac." She wrote:
I am writing about your commercial for the Cadillac ELR (I believe it is called Poolside). I find this commercial insulting and embarrassing. It's portrayal of what it is to be an American and what Americans value leads me to feelings of shame--ashamed to be American. In turn it leads me to NEVER want to buy a Cadillac.
I wanted to share my thoughts with you first before communicating them to others. PLEASE PULL THIS AD! Despite my revulsion of this ad I believe the ELR is a wonderful product. Perhaps there might be another way to share about it with consumers--please!
Cadillac responded with a polite note that addressed none of her points and avoided taking any stance whatsoever: