Cadillac released a new ad for its ELR, a hybrid vehicle, in the Super Bowl. The spot quickly attracted attention for the swaggering monologue delivered by pitchman Neal McDonough, who made an argument for workaholism as an American virtue, in contrast to the laziness of Europeans. As I noted at the time, though, what was really significant about the spot was that it marshaled that argument for toughness into support for a hybrid vehicle, rather than suggesting that there is something effete about moving away from gasoline power:

William Clay Ford with his Ford car that he will drive as the pace car for the annual 500 mile auto race at Indianapolis on May 30, 1953. This photo is dated March 25, 1953. (AP Photo) Old brands, new ideas. A 1953 Ford. (AP Photo)

Now, Ford has slapped back at its competitor with an ad called “Upside,” featuring Pashon Murray, who co-founded a company, Detroit Dirt, that sells compost to all sorts of urban growers. Rather than showing off for the rest of the world or working for their personal enrichment, Pashon says she and her colleagues are “crazy entrepreneurs trying to make the world a better place.” Just like McDonough, her reward is a hybrid vehicle, the Ford C-Max:

Murray may direct her entrepreneurial energies toward hacking her city while McDonough’s may be a kind of national positioning. But they are united by a single idea: America is capable of making exceptionally cool things that are an exemplar of its greatness and a reward for hard work. The drive to innovation may be politically neutral, its stance depending on its application. But at least in these competing ads, the idea of innovation has given people with different priorities a common language, even if only temporarily, and even if only in service of selling cars.

Alyssa Rosenberg blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post's Opinions section.
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