SEAN GAGNIER

Ford vs. Cadillac: C-Max video spoofs rich-guy ELR spot, speaking to the common man

Sean Gagnier is a reporting intern for Automotive NewsSean Gagnier is a reporting intern for Automotive News
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Why do we work so hard?

Is it so we can take a vacation in August to get away from our luxurious homes, pools, $75,000 cars and claim ownership of the moon? Those things are so tiring and I have yet to find the opportunity to get to my time share on the Sea of Tranquility.

Or, as a new Ford C-Max Energi video by Ford's Team Detroit agency posted on YouTube suggests, do we work so hard because we want to help the people around us?

When Cadillac rolled out its spot for the ELR luxury plug-in hybrid, it featured a middle-aged guy wandering his fancy house while explaining that being an American meant coming off like a bragging frat boy with a new toy. That new toy just happened to be a $75,000 ELR.

Cadillac’s advertising director, Craig Bierley, told Advertising Age, a sibling publication of Automotive News, that the commercial wasn’t aimed at millionaires -- just people making around $200,000 a year.

"These are people who haven't been given anything. Every part of success they've achieved has been earned through hard work and hustle ... One of the ways they reward themselves for their hard work is through the purchase of a luxury car," he said.

The commercial received praise and criticism for its style, with slightly more opinions falling into the latter category. Ford picked up on this “rich guy backlash” and responded in brilliant fashion.

In the Ford video, Pashon Murray, founder of Detroit Dirt, which collects compost from around Detroit to promote urban farming in the city, goes nearly line for line and shot for shot with the Cadillac spot -- but with a more populist tone.

Instead of portraying an ELR buyer as smug and boastful, Ford hits on the same themes that Cadillac did -- hard work, entrepreneurship and environmentalism --- and paints the buyer of a C-Max Energi as someone who wants to make a difference.

Murray states in the commercial that she wants to “try to make a difference,” and then reiterates “try,” as if to underscore that she can only do her part. Then in a parting shot at Cadillac, she says that helping the city and the environment is the “upside of giving a damn.”

A Ford spokeswoman told the Detroit Free Press: "I don't think we're mocking a competitor. We're trying to showcase positive work being done in our community."

You can reach Sean Gagnier at sgagnier@crain.com.

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