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      American Car Ads Are an Embarrassment

      March 3, 2014

      During the Oscars last night, Cadillac aired their controversial new "American exceptionalism" commercial, which originally premiered during the Winter Olympics. It features actor and devout Catholic, Neal McDonough, perfectly cast as “Arrogant American Asshole,” shitting on the rest of the lazy world. It is one of the worst car ads ever produced.

      Even if you know nothing about ad agency culture, you know by watching Mad Men that an auto account is the ultimate win—the marquee piece of business to have on your reel. The advertising revolution of the 1960s was ignited by car ads—specifically the great Doyle Dane Bernbach work on Volkswagen. This might lead you to think, due to the intense competition, that the resulting car ads would be brilliant works of art. But the ads—at least in America—are actually fucking awful, nearly across the board.

      Cadillac ELR: “Poolside”

      This commercial has already gotten some press: Liberals hate it; conservatives love it. Me? I’m a libertarian, so I don’t give a shit about the politics expressed in a car ad. But what’s the ad selling? Amurica. And, oh yeah, there’s a car in the spot—a Commie electric car that costs $75,000. While McDonough is busy bashing France with his juvenile speech, Cadillac forgets to sell me on the fucking car. N'est-ce pas, dumbasses?

      Cadillac’s advertising director Craig Bierley says people have “misconstrued” the ad (in other words, he’s calling you consumers stupid). Here’s some of his MBA-fueled bullshit defending the spot:

      “It's basically saying hard work creates its own luck. In order to achieve it, you just have to believe anything's possible. You have to believe in yourself; you have to believe in possibilities. It's really about optimism. It's really a fundamental human truth: optimism about creating your own future. It's not about materialism."

      NO, not at all.

      Ad agency: Rogue, which is a new shop with a cool name that is really just a bunch of existing Interpublic agency employees thrown together specifically to win the Cadillac account (about $250 million, annually).

      Wardrobe note: McDounough’s suit was one size too tight.

      Chrysler: “America’s Import”

      Here’s another ad selling me on my country, and not cars, starring a hooey-spouting Bob Dylan. The spot, which first aired during the Super Bowl, is an American tragedy that somebody needs to maybe write a folk song about.

      Many critics missed the point: It’s not Bob Dylan that made this ad so awful—using him could have made for an interesting commercial. No, it’s how he was used: as a doddering prop, saying a copywriter’s flat, uninspired, disjointed words, words nothing like Dylan’s lyrics. "What’s more American than America?"  "Like a Rolling Stone" is pretty damn American.

      The spot is a bunch of copy bites—"You can’t fake true cool" (what?)—a patchwork of over-the-top, incoherent, sloppily stitched-together images of "Americana." Cowboys. Cheerleaders. Dr. J. Rosie the Riveter tattoo. Rosie the Riveter poster (in case you missed the tattoo). Woman with child. Vintage woman with child. Close-up of hot girl with blowjob lips. Back to the cowboy (NEEDS MORE COWBOY), etc. And since a lot Americans weren’t going to know who the fuck this slow-speaking old man was, let’s slip in a shot of Dylan staring at his own music books. Fucking fan-tastic.

      And then, just like Cadillac, let’s throw in some Cold War–era, junior-high-school-term-paper-level jingoism:

      "So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone..." Yeah, and let Fiat wholly own your "American" car company. It’s just embarrassingly bad ad copy. I apologize, Tom McElligott. I apologize, Bill Bernbach’s ghost.

      Ad agency: GlobalHue, whose homepage copywriter (the same one?) says that the firm has "deep expertise in activating influence."

      Jeep: “Restless”

      This is the last one for today, because I can’t take this shit anymore.

      The spot—which sounds like it was written by an account executive who thinks he’s the sober reincarnation of Jack Kerouac—also first aired during the Super Bowl. It also sounds like the voiceover dude just got out of bed at 2 PM and is practicing the script in the bathroom mirror. Some of the rubbish copy:

      “Restlessness starts with an itch, and ends in progress.” Progress? What the fuck are you talking about, sleepy millennial dude?

      “Genetics have a voice"—no, they don’t—"you can only deny so long. They scream"—no, they don’t—"‘go, run, act, find, dare.’”

      "Each tick of the old clock... a reminder that stillness is what actually kills us.” No, most of the times it’s genetics; and occasionally it's from getting hit by a Jeep Cherokee.

      Closing request: Would all you ambitious, young copywriters currently on American car accounts please quit your jobs and go finish your shitty American novel so you can get all these shitty turns of phrases out of your system? Then come back to ad-agency life and start writing real, good ads. Thank you.

      Topics: cadillac, jeep, car ads, cars, America, jingoism, oscars, mark duffy, copyranter, ad agency, chrysler

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