Neal McDonough is one of those actors who sends you scrambling the internet every time they show up – you recognize it, but you don’t know why. In Cadillac advertising “By the swimming pool“, which first aired during the Olympics, McDonough portrays an American Type A director. He quickly navigates his family’s parsonage, raising one of his daughters without a smile, passing the morning paper to his wife like a stick in a relay race and donning a pointy suit before stepping out to unplug his Cadillac ELR. When I reviewed McDonough’s long list of credits, I realized I had known him from “Desperate Housewives” , in which he played the murderous Dave Williams plot, perhaps it’s this association that makes his Cadillac-driving paterfamilias seem vaguely sociopathic.
Or maybe it’s just his monologue: McDonough’s character tells us that people in other countries ‘walk around their homes, they stop at the cafe, they take August on leave,’ but in America , “We are crazy, we are working hard”. believers âwho win our chance. This âusâ involves the public, transforming us all into extremely ambitious vacation enthusiasts, to whom we owe shimmering swimming pools, well-appointed homes and luxury cars. According to your own beliefs, it is either a tonic evocation American work ethic or a hymn to the ruthless careerism and the American superiority complex. Adam Gopnik called it “the most heinous television commercial ever.”
Associating products with certain values ââis a tactic almost as old as advertising itself. In addition to Cadillac, Chili’s and Coca-Cola have recently contributed advertisements of this type. Chipotle, as I wrote before, markets itself on the basis of a sincere, albeit imperfect, effort to avoid factory-farmed ingredients; Panera favors his community involvement and preference for meat and poultry without antibiotics; in Chrysler’s 2012 Super Bowl a d, Clint Eastwood gave a country tired of the recession American resilience. Value-based ads may or may not sell products, but they offer insight into how businesses view their customers. And our reaction to them says a lot about how we see ourselves.
In a maintenance with Michael McCarthy, from Ad ageCadillac Advertising Director Craig Bierley said “Poolside” is aimed at consumers who make about two hundred thousand dollars a year, people with “a little grain under their fingernails” who “get in and out. come out of luxury â. He also said, âThese are people who have not received anything. Every part of the success they have achieved has been earned through hard work and effort. (A Cadillac spokesperson declined a request for further comment on Bierley’s behalf.) Is Bierley’s description of members of this income bracket accurate – and research about economic mobility suggests that’s not the case – it’s certainly a story rich people often believe about themselves.
Last week, Chili’s posted an online ad titled “More life is happening hereWhich promotes its commitment to “compassion, kinship and a feeling of something greater”. This notion of American values ââdiffers from that of Cadillac. Spot showcases Chile’s community engagementâa familiar tacticalâIncluding food donations, disaster relief and support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
âThere are a growing number of socially conscious consumers, and they are looking for brands that have a powerful purpose and brands that share similar values,â Krista Gibson, director of marketing at Chili’s, told me. Although Gibson said the ad was not produced with a particular demographic in mind, a comparison to the Cadillac ad reveals a lot: instead of a wrestling family roaming a sprawling house, we see fathers and daughters befriending hamburgers; a modest family birthday party; people on cots, presumably after a natural disaster; the return of a soldier. It’s a vision of the community designed to appeal to middle-class families who frequent casual chain restaurants.
In the Coke commercial of âIt’s Beautiful,â which debuted at this year’s Super Bowl, sweet high-pitched voices sing âAmerica the Beautifulâ in multiple languages, while Americans from diverse backgrounds share tender moments: sisters eat popcorn at the movies, friends are dancing, a family is camping, two dads rollerblading with their daughter. Coke has touted itself as America’s quintessential soft drink for decades, but its multilingual celebration of American diversity has outraged some conservatives, who mocked that patriotic songs be sung only in English. Despite the outcry from loud bigots, many people were moved: The ad has been viewed over eleven million times on YouTube. As Amy Davidson observed, âThere’s a degree to which a business can, with an ad, invite a bit of national thinking. In this regard, the Coke ad was helpful; it was, in the best sense, patriotic. In a press release, Katie Bayne, president of Coca-Cola’s North American brands, said the ad celebrates “the diversity that makes this country great and the fact that everyone can thrive here and be happy “.
But âIt’s Beautifulâ does not only offer a beautiful vision of American diversity; it is carefully constructed to sell sugary soft drinks to a particular audience. In the Guardian, Jill Filipovic argues that coke, like some other manufacturers of unhealthy products, is marketed aggressively to minority communities. “Coke’s targeting of Latin American populations and other immigrants is about as progressive as RJ Reynolds marketing menthol cigarettes to African Americans or Phillip Morris peddling Virginia Slims to women, that is, not very, âshe writes.
By evoking an idealized version of America, in which we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, Chili’s and Coke invite us to feel virtuous when we consume their products. But, in a country whose enduring cultural myths include Horatio Alger and the Wellness Queen, the idea that material success is a high goal and primarily a function of hard work is also deeply ingrained and, most importantly, politically powerful.
McDonough’s character, after inspecting his property, ends the ad by saying, “It’s the advantage of taking only two weeks in the month of August. Many Americans do not have paid time off, and those who do regularly go on vacation unused, often with a heavy workload. Few workers have access to paid family leave. Over twenty percent of children in the United States live in poverty. Yet last week Paul Ryan rallied his base by attacking subsidized school meals. I suspect this is one of the reasons the Cadillac announcement is so infuriating to critics: It reveals a truth about American values ââthat they would rather dismiss as a marketing twist.