Ford have come up with an ad for their electric car that bears more than a passing resemblance to the ad for Cadillac's electric car. They are all but identical. Except they are as different as, dare I say it, black and white.
The Caddy ad caused a fuss when it aired. It shows a rich white 'Master of the Universe' striding through his keep and delivering a monologue that could have come straight out of The Wolf of Wall Street*. The Ford ad on the other hand seems like an oblique swipe at Cadillac - or rather at the mind-set of the Cadillac owner who chooses an electric car.
The sub-text of the Cadillac message seems to be that you don't have to give up the American Dream and all of the assumed rights and privilege that go with it - like gas guzzling vehicles - to be a member of the Caddy club. They are letting their customers know that it isn't un-American to drive a vehicle that relies on renewable energy. The brand is fighting battles on two fronts. Giving up a massive V8 is no sacrifice at the altar of conspicuous consumption. By being so over-the-top with their character - almost to the point where the audience could dislike him as much as the 99%/Occupy Wall Streeters inevitably do - they have the fall back position of claiming it was a self parody. It's a close-run thing and I don't know if they pulled it off.
As for the Ford ad - well, taking the home-spun approach to the same story is interesting - but you really have to look more closely at the idea and the strategy. Cadillac aired during the Olympics. I'm not even sure the Ford ad was ever intended to air at all, it was made on the cheap. But let's put that aside for a moment. What are they trying to say?
By referring to the Cadillac spot so closely Ford are using the luxury brand's notoriety to leap-frog to another platform altogether. Sure - both vehicles are electric, but that's where the similarities end. Ford isn't competing for the attention of luxury buyers - even if 'the millionaire next door' does drive a modest sedan*. If there is a positive message it is to assuage the entrepreneurial urban do-gooder/wish-I-could-do-gooder that the Ford brand that is virtuous, aware, hard working and socially responsible - just like you - and not like 'them'.
But let's cut to the chase. Ford are leveraging the media investment made by Cadillac - a spot in the Olympics is muy caro and the time and space devoted to discussing it has created a critical mass of awareness. Left to its own devices Ford's electric jalopy would cause barely flicker in the media landscape - but here we are talking about it. It is a social object or rather it's faux 'battle' with Cadillac is.
I guess when you rub two things together you create a spark?
Keep an eye out for things that are being talked about in social media.
Don't try to leap in with an irrelevant attempt to hijack a thread - but do think about how you can leverage the heightened interest in the subject.
Some industry insiders have criticised Cadillac for distracting people with the message rather than the product (apparently the electric vehicle was a last minute product substitution anyway - it was going to feature an Escalade). Ford also managed to look like the minnow versus the shark - when the truth is the opposite. Perception is reality.
Here's the scripts for comparison:
The first ever ELR. Cadillac
*The Wolf of Wall Street. The Guardian's Review.
**The Millionaire Next Door - Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth (PAWs)
The Ford spokesperson isn't an actor. Pashon Murray the founder of Detroit Dirt, a sustainability consultancy and advocacy group that is converting urban wasteland into productive farms (there's a lot of wasted urban land in Detroit).
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