The upside of poking fun

Ford spoof spotlights Detroit entrepreneur, gives Cadillac more exposure

"Upside" video performer Pashon Murray, a Detroit entrepreneur and the daughter of a General Motors retiree, thinks the Cadillac ELR is "cool."

DETROIT -- Life was simpler for Pashon Murray when it was all about collecting food scraps and manure to make good, rich dirt.

Manure. For dirt.

But now that she's the face of Ford's playful YouTube spoof of Cadillac's polarizing "Poolside" TV spot for the ELR plug-in hybrid, things are more hectic.

Since Ford's video hit the Web in late March, Murray, founder of composting company Detroit Dirt, said she has been inundated with phone calls and e-mails from media, talent agents casting commercials and businesses with consulting offers.

In the video, titled "Upside," Murray, 36, glides through the Team Detroit-produced video, delivering her lines smoothly and sarcastically in a spot-on sendup of the Cadillac ELR commercial before climbing into a Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.

Although Murray appears to be a seasoned actress, she's a first-time performer.

"The director flew in from L.A. He was like, 'Pashon, at first I was concerned about you because you don't have any experience, but then you were like a natural,'" said Murray, whose company collects food scraps from businesses such as Ford, Team Detroit and General Motors. "I'm like, 'Hey, if they believed in me, then I have to step my game up and perform.'"

Some marketing experts say quick-hit online productions such as the Ford spoof will become more common because of their cost-effectiveness compared with TV campaigns and the informal nature of the Web, which allows more risk-taking.

At the same time, if companies decide to take gentle jabs at their rivals, experts say they should consider that their competitors could benefit from the additional exposure as well.

David Reibstein, marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, said the Ford video reminds him of an old Pepsi spot featuring retired U.S. Sen Bob Dole that mimicked a Viagra campaign in which the senator also appeared. He said the Pepsi spoof ended up benefiting both brands.

He said a similar scenario could play out now as Ford's parody, which was a hit on social networks, draws attention to Cadillac, which ran its spot only briefly during high-profile TV events. People who saw the Ford spot, he said, are likely sending their friends links to both.

"When you see this commercial, it reminds you of the Cadillac ad," Reibstein said. "It helps reinforce whatever you saw in that particular ad. Cadillac is not paying for that."

The Ford video, with its cues of environmental sustainability and down-to-earth values, was targeted at an audience that tends to share content on social platforms, said William Ward, a social media professor at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He sees some upside for Cadillac.

"A lot more people are seeing and hearing about Cadillac who may have never seen that ad," said Ward, who thinks it's possible that other auto brands could now parody Ford. "Getting people to watch your competitor's ad? Maybe there are better ways to do it."

Although much of the online buzz has centered on Ford taking a shot at Cadillac, a Ford spokeswoman said the video was simply about being creative, while bringing attention to Murray's work.

Murray, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native, said she didn't think the ELR "Poolside" spot appealed to the masses, but she didn't react negatively to it as many critics have. She's the daughter of a GM retiree and thinks the ELR is "cool."

"There were no ill intentions," said Murray, who drives a Jeep Wrangler. "We wanted to tell a story about hard-working people."

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at -- Follow Vince on Twitter: @VinceBond86

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