I've been watching a lot of TV lately. More so than usual. I can't help it. I like watching football on the weekend. I'm not even a sports nut, I just like having it on. There's something calming, almost nostalgic about the snaps and buzzes of snare drums on Saturday and the evening musical cues on Sunday and Monday. It sounds like fall, like childhood.
Watching all this TV I've stumbled across a couple ads that are in stark contrast to each other, but are attempting to show the same thing. I'm not an ad guru, or a marketing maven. I'm just a person who appreciates good ad campaigns. I don't like feeling patronized or needlessly hooked into a product. No one does. If you feel like someone is playing you for a sap, then the commercial just lost that company a client.
Let's start with the Cadillac ATS vs. The World.
At first glance, it's ambitious. It's part Travel Channel, part James Bond. The driver, his attractive and excitable passenger and the film crew travel to exotic locals in order to put this luxury car through its paces. If it can handle THESE roads, it must be good. It must be able to handle driving upstate to visit the family, or across town to catch that late night sci-fi/horror film. Is there anything it can't do?
Well, yes. It's just a car. And let's put some perspective on it, it's still just driving on roads. Yes, the roads are twisty and turny and bumpy and shadowed, but my guess is they are still flat ribbons on which this car goes forward with all tires touching at once. Notice also that the car is brought in on a semi. It's such a great car, it can't be bothered to cruise the pedestrian streets of Normalville. It has to be carted in NASCAR style to these locations.
The car doesn't turn into Aquatron and swim to across that beautiful cove. It doesn't fight those kid judo masters. It doesn't plow across the ice flow. It drives on a road.
The co-pilot's line "It's like Armageddon out there!" just solidifies that fact that Cadillac's marketing division really thought that viewers would buy into this whole adventure across the globe as a good way to show off their product. The problem is, in the right hands, you could drive any car down these roads. If you are a professional driver on a closed course, you don't need this specific car. To me, this is an example of hype, and an ad campaign that's over blown and insulting. It looks like an excuse for a group of people to travel the globe to "test" whether or not this car can handle these roads, as though the R & D people didn't think of that already, as though the safety team didn't smash up hundreds of cars just like this, as though hundreds of well educated people didn't already have their say. Now we have Bo and Luke driving on a dirt road.
Where do I sign up for this job?
To top it off, it's not just ONE commercial. Cadillac has created a whole TV/web video campaign about this car vs. The World. There are episodes. EPISODES!
By way of comparison, let's look at Nissan's Pathfinder commercial. In this (remarkably shorter) ad, a family wants to see Glacier Point, but it's closed. They feel their car can handle the terrain so they ask the trail guide to open it up for them.
What follows is a decent example of what a commercial CAN be. It shows the car in action, it doesn't pander, it doesn't hype and it uses a bit of humor. This car actually CAN go to exotic locations, but we aren't treated to the two hour IMAX hosted by Anthony Bourdain version showing us how. It's simple, it's not overblown and it's not completely out of the realm of possibility.
I guess what it comes down to is why Cadillac may be trying so hard. Their ATS is only $5k more on the base MSRP than the Pathfinder, but the latter is an all purpose vehicle. Depending on the driver, it can be driven many ways. The ATS is nearly a muscle car by comparisson. It's a compact luxury sports car. Nissan's site also lists the MPG for the Pathfinder, the ATS doesn't. I guess "luxury" means we have to also deal with the pomp associated with the vehicle.
I wonder, would the sticker price be lower if they didn't have to pay for these people to fly all over the world doing what you could probably do driving around Colorado?