On March 11, 2014, almost one year ago today, the screed sank its teeth into the widely derided Neal McDonough Cadillac commercial.
You remember the one.
Neal walks through a lovely Los Angeles home.
He asks, "Why do we work so hard? For what? For this?"
(GESTURES TO BACKYARD SWIMMING POOL)
"For stuff? Other countries, they work, they stroll home, they stop by the cafe, they take August off. Off! Why aren't you like that? Why aren't we like that?"
The message goes on to chest-thump about the American character and implies we should all want to drive an electric Cadillac.
The screed's conclusion on that fine morning in March?
Yes, the copy was rah-rah in nature.
It was a tribute to some truly commendable things about what Americans do.
But the filmmakers forgot that they're working in a visual medium.
What was a not-bad idea was lost in a blustery attitude and a soup of images that made it all seem like a message celebrating the pursuit of rampant materialism.
And oh, by the way, it kind gave a middle finger to the French.
Can Cadillac be considered a tribute to the American character?
BUT THEY DIDN'T MAKE IT WORK
Instead, they made a commercial that seemed about something else.
Good intentions gone crass.
And today, like a present to the anniversary of that screed, Cadillac is back for us to whip like a rented mule.
No, not the Matthew McConaughey commercials.
Those are for Lincoln.
Not that you could really remember.
But check out the hilarious Jim Carrey rips from
What we're talking about today is the new spot from Cadillac: "The Daring - No Regrets."
The photography is stunning.
AND THE COMMERCIAL IS LITTLE MORE THAN A HIGH-END RIP-OFF OF MAZDA
Yes, you probably remember that we've also thrashed Mazda's Game Changers campaign here.
It's that relentlessly red campaign in which Mazda repeatedly compares themselves to great athletes, thinkers and artists.
The messages are an exercise in "Look at how great these unrelated geniuses are, and now look how great we are!"
It's possibly one of the biggest borrowed-interest conceits in the history of advertising.
And now, Cadillac walks in with a beautifully shot, highly artistic campaign that says, "Look how great all these business people are, and look how great we are!"
Didn't anyone at Publicis New York or Cadillac stop for even a second and say, "Hmm, this looks familiar."
IN THIS CASE, THE INTEGRATION OF THE CONCEIT IS BETTER
The spot shows a slow-mo image of fashion designer Jason Wu. The subtitle fades in: "How dare a fashion intern become an arbiter of style."
There's a slow-mo image of the brilliant biologist Anne Wojcicki. The subtitle fades in: "How dare a Wall Street analyst fight disease with DNA."
Slow-mo image of serial entrepreneur Njeri Rionge: "How dare a hairdresser bring the internet to Africa."
Slow-mo image of Boyhood director Richard Linklater: "How dare a director take 12 years to shoot one film."
Slow-mo image of Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak: "How dare a college dropout invent the personal computer."
Slow-mo image of a white Cadillac CTS: "How dare a 112-year-old car maker reinvent itself.
"Only those who dare drive the world forward.
"Cadillac. Dare greatly."
THE WORDS THEY LEFT OUT: "ON CREDIT"
How good would that be?
"Dare greatly on credit." Or, "Dare greatly with financing."
After all, it is a $45,000 car. Someone's gonna have to finance it.
Mazda's commercials: "Look at all these great innovators. Look how innovative we are. Buy a Mazda."
Cadillac's commercial: "Look at all these daring innovators. Look how daring we are. You should be daring. Buy a Cadillac."
Some small props to Cadillac for at least making it a little more like the Apple
Here's to The Crazy Ones campaign. It turns the idea of genius around and flatters the prospect with the idea that he or she could dare greatly.
But unlike Apple, Cadillac insists on inserting themselves into the equation. And like Mazda, they insist on flattering themselves by aligning their brand with these great people.
The beauty of Here's to The Crazy Ones is that Apple never once called attention to their own product or tried to say, "Look at us."
CADILLAC HAS MADE THE WHOLE THING AN EGO TRIP
The significance of the collective accomplishments of Jason Wu, Anne Wojcicki, Njeri Rionge, Richard Linklater, and Steve Wozniak are effectively diminished to being a vehicle for the self-aggrandizement of a struggling luxury car maker.
Maybe the other words they left out are, "Dare to be self-important."
Because once you peel away all the layers of artistry, that's really what we're left with.
The soundtrack to this hugely expensive testimony to "look how great we are" is Edit Piaf's moody 1960 recording of, "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien."
If you don't speak French, that means "No, I Regret Nothing."
It's a song about all the good and bad things that have happened to a lover.
Verses include, "It's paid for, swept away, forgotten/I don't care about the past," and "My troubles, my pleasures/I don't need them anymore."
HARD TO IMAGINE ANY OF THOSE PEOPLE IN THE COMMERCIAL DARING TO SAY THAT
In fact, despite all the pain of his Apple career and his relationship with Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak remains an employee at Apple.
Never mind his stint on Dancing With the Stars.
Anyway, all this to say: art and artifice in the service of self-aggrandizement seems like a bad idea.
The phrase "borrowed interest" is always a bit too cumbersome.
It seems too abstract.
And in this case, it might even be too polite.
A better phrase might be, "borrowed importance."
CADILLAC IS RELYING ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE GREATS TO MAKE ITSELF GREAT
And it just doesn't fly.
This is not the gritty, working-class underdog snarl of Chrysler's Eminem "Imported from Detroit" spot.
There was an honesty and an authenticity to that.
It didn't dare to do anything other than be Detroit.
Cadillac is daring to be too big for its britches.
What might be most prophetic about this Cadillac commercial is the choice of Edith Piaf for the soundtrack.
REGARDED AS THE NATIONAL DIVA OF FRANCE, PIAF WAS INDEED A GREAT
She was also an alcoholic and morphine addict.
The daughter she had as a teenager died at age 2 of meningitis and neglect.
Piaf herself died at age 47 of liver cancer.
Her dying words were, "Chaque fou fichue chose que vous faites dans cette vie, vous payez pour."
Which all sounds very romantic.
It's in French, after all.
English is definitely not a romance language. Translation: "Every damn fool thing you do in this life, you pay for."
And the cynics out there might think that a much more fitting place to begin advertising a $45,000 Cadillac.
To see the commercial, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGhaOV0BPmA