Cadillac's "Poolside" commercial, starring a middle-aged rich guy bragging about America's work-hard ethos, was positioned right on the fault lines of America's great cultural divide. And the cheers and jeers are making national news.
In the spot, a poster boy for American exceptionalism, and the hard-charging work schedule and luxury goodies it produces, takes a shot at more easygoing nations in which people "stop at the cafe and take August off. Off."
He asks: "Why aren't we like that? Because we're crazy, driven, hard-working believers, that's why. ... Those other countries think we're nuts. Whatever."
It's a curious tack to take for a brand that has made much of wanting to take its America-centric cars global.
"Cadillac made a commercial about the American Dream -- and it's a nightmare," sniffed the Huffington Post.
But Fox Business News contributor Jonathan Hoenig, a founding member of the Capitalistpig hedge fund, praised "Poolside" as a "tremendous" celebration of profit-seeking, productivity and, yes, enjoyment of material goods. He called it "a wonderful ad that actually celebrates America."
Cadillac says it's enjoying the buzz -- with reservations. Marketing chief Uwe Ellinghaus, who became Cadillac's global chief marketing officer in January, after the commercial already was in the works for the Olympics, said last week in Geneva that early research suggested "we would break through the clutter and generate a hell of a lot of buzz."
But he said he had been a little concerned that the 60-second spot, created by Cadillac's advertising agency, Rogue, could come off as "snobby, arrogant, a little aloof."
So the new CMO said he tweaked the only thing he could at that late stage: He substituted the freshly launched plug-in hybrid ELR as the car appearing at the end of the commercial.
He wouldn't say what vehicle it replaced. Perhaps critics' howls would have been louder had actor Neal McDonough hopped into a blinged-out Escalade.