Gotta Sell Somebody

Russell McCutcheon was nice enough to pass along this commercial to me, knowing I’d be interested because of my recent post about the ad on which it is based. It offers a response to Cadillac’s unapologetic praise of American consumerism…and it’s brought to you by Ford Motor Co. Yep, Ford!  The same company who’s “Built Ford Tough” campaigns are hardly trying to get customers to imagine a more eco-friendly future, instead offering us the likes of Toby Keith (the very same “Angry American” who found a crass way of suggesting the “American way” is pummeling the country’s enemies) out-muscling two other trucks:

The new Ford commercial (advertising the new C-MAX hybrid) has received praise from folks who’ve looked for a counterpoint to Cadillac’s glib marketing. Harry Bradford wrote this article for the Huffington Post, frankly entitled “Ford’s Answer to Cadillac’s Classist And Greedy Commercial Is Perfect.”  In it, he commends the choice of urban farming advocate and founder of Detroit Dirt, Pashon Murray, to represent a different brand of American hard work.  But that brand…is, well…still a brand, isn’t it?

Despite Bradford’s suggestion that “Murray praises hard work not for material gain, but in the name of progress” and that the Ford ad “champions an entirely different message” from the Cadillac commercial, a car is still getting sold! In a lot of ways, the ad champions exactly the same message: “Make a statement about who you are by buying this car.” But I bet General Motors (the makers of Cadillac) won’t sue for copyright infringement. Why not? Well, because both ads present competing claims about authenticity and legitimacy…and they are pitched at two very different audiences. So, Ford’s commercial doesn’t worry Cadillac, and vice versa, because they’re not going after the same demographic anyway. No harm, no foul.

After all, Pashon Murray has done some work for GM, too, the Huffington Post article tells us. And here she is for a Carhartt photo shoot called “On Dirt and Ethics.” The series of photographs at once commends her “vision and work ethic” for the “greater good” and allows folks at home to “shop Pashon’s look here”! We’re being sold a better future through a nifty pair of work gloves!

See how that works? Both the Cadillac and Ford campaigns are selling cars by selling ideologies.

But isn’t that just Marketing 101? Interesting to me is the way in which people see the ads as doing dramatically different work. Instead, I’d suggest we see them as simply presenting two sides of the same coin and realize that, at the end of the day, we’re still being sold something.

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