Monthly Archives: May 2014

The American Dream, Ford Style

Remember that obnoxious Cadillac ad that debuted during the Olympics? The one where an actor smugly proclaimed that we work ourselves to death in order to buy high end stuff, like, I don’t know, this here Cadillac? Well, Ford just volleyed that sucker back like a rocket.

In their ad, they mimicked the structure, pacing, and shot composition of the Cadillac ad. Instead of using an actor playing a privileged guy who chooses to work and keep up with the Joneses, Ford uses a real person, Pasho Murray, to play the lead. Murray founded Detroit Dirt, which creates compost using waste materials and sells it to people who want to create organic gardens in the Detroit area.

She opens in front of a heap of composting dirt and asks, “Why do I work so hard? For this? For dirt?” This time, it’s personal. And over the course of the ad, she lays out why she works hard. Whereas the Caddy ad told us we work so hard for money and stuff, Murray says that she works hard to help entrepreneurs create locally grown organic food. To make the world a better place.

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To be fair, we are talking about two mega-corporations throwing jabs at each other. But it is interesting in how they do it using the framework of the American Dream. In the Cadillac ad, the American Dream is shallow, money-driven, and exclusionary. It’s the strong individual rising above the pack to reap personal rewards. In Ford’s ad, the American Dream is about building a better world. It’s a self-motivated individual working within a community to further an aim that benefits everyone. This American Dream is social, result-driven, and inclusionary.

Really, it’s no surprise to see this from Ford, though it is a surprise to see it from a modern day Ford. Henry Ford, founder of the company, used the assembly line and higher wages for his workers to create cars that his workers could buy. This was Fordism, way to lower the cost using mass production techniques while also paying workers a living wage. In doing so, they made the automobile something for regular joes, not just for the super-rich.

Their ideologies come directly from the markets that they target. While the Cadillac ad targets the super-rich, the Ford ad pitches a plug-in hybrid car that most middle class families can consider. The Cadillac 2014 ELR is about $75k and the Ford C-Max Energi is about $30k. This is the difference between the two brands – one pitches individual luxury and the other pitches working together to better the world. It’s capitalism with social responsibility. The rich that can buy the Cadillac only care about themselves, while the Ford market cares about everyone’s fortunes. That’s what these two ads are saying.

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The American Dream is about work and sacrifice so that you can improve your place in the world. The genius of the Ford ad is that it broadens this idea to apply to the world around you. You work hard and try to make the work better, as Murray says in the ad. Your place in the world will be better if the world becomes better. As Murray concludes, “That’s the upside of giving a damn.”

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Filed under american dream, inequality