Cadillac’s Poolside ad ad starring actor Neal McDonough, which first aired during NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Russia, has been the subject of much controversy and backlash. Many felt that the ad was brimming with arrogant bragging and focused too much on material goods. As a result, Cadillac’s ad director, Craig Bierley, sat down with Ad Age to set the record straight on an ad which he felt was “misconstrued” by viewers.
According to Bierley, the ad is intended to serve as a “brand provocation”. In other words, Cadillac knew that some viewers would loathe the commercial while others would love it, but in the end it would get people talking about it. If that is all they wanted out of the 60-second spot, we’d say it was a huge success.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the commercial, Bierley says, was that it was aimed at the richest 1 percent of individuals. He goes on to explain that the ad was actually targeted at individuals who make around $200,000 a year. They are consumers with a “little bit of grit under their fingernails” who “pop in and out of luxury” when and how they see fit, he told Ad Age.
“These are people who haven’t been given anything. Every part of success they’ve achieved has been earned through hard work and hustle. One of the ways they reward themselves for their hard work is through the purchase of a luxury car,” Bierley said.
Another contributing factor in the “Poolside backlash” was the spot’s materialistic overtones. Bierley dismissed the idea that the ad promotes materialism, and instead says that Americans don’t work hard to buy “stuff”, but because they like to. The materialistic things, like the Cadillac ELR, are simply by-products of hard work.
“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,” explained Bierley.
Possibly the easiest thing to criticize the ad for, though, is its no-forgiveness, American chest-thumping. That element was actually intended to celebrate American milestones achieved through hard work. Bierley says the ad would not have focused so much on American accomplishments if it was intended to be aired overseas.
“The strategy was really to play off the consumer insights around this notion of achievement earned through hard work and hustle and celebrating that.” he said. “Since it’s a U.S.-based spot, we used metaphors to talk about other people who received their success through hard work.”
Overall, Bierley says response to the ad has been favorable, with positive feedback from young consumers outnumbering bad feedback about 3 to 1. He says the ad is not about bragging, or materialism, but about working hard to get where you want to be.
“We’re not making a statement saying, ‘We want people to work hard.’ What we’re saying is that hard work has its payoffs. Find something you love to do, do it incredibly well and there’s a reward for that. Whether its personal satisfaction, whether its fulfillment, whether that’s money,” Bierley concludes.