“This next tune is about a jeep…”

The X Ambassadors are an alternative rock band from Ithaca New York. Signed on the Interscope label, the band has toured with the likes Imagine Dragons and Jimmie Eat World. They’ve put out two records.

The only reason I know any of this is because I looked the X Ambassadors up on Wikipedia. Why did I do that? Call it intellectual curiosity. The band is featured in a new jeep commercial, for their Renegade model. Here’s the log line for the commercial, from site ispot.tv:

“The X Ambassadors load up for their tour and take on the road in the 2015 Jeep Renegade. The car has plenty of room for their gear, a bit of guitar practice, writing new songs and general road trip shenanigans. Watch as the alternative rock band members explore the country as they make their way to their show in Portland, Oregon.”

“Road trip shenanigans…” And they all end up in Oregon. How precious is that? But seriously, when I first saw this commercial, I wasn’t even sure if the band was real. I assumed so yet the lyrics to the song, which drives the commercial, seemed to be written exactly for Jeep Renegade. The tune is even called, Renegades. Here is what they used in the spot:

Long live the pioneer
Rebels and …
Go forth and have no fear
Come close and lend an ear


Living like we’re renegades.

Renegades…

Renegades…

Forget that Levis did this commercial way better, using Walt Whitman’s Pioneers! O Pioneers! My second reaction, however, is why I’m writing about it at all. That’s because I thought the client and its ad agency had either written a song or contracted a band to compose one specifically for the product; in other words, a jingle.

Horrors! O Horrors! I know calling this piece of music a jingle is perhaps harsh. But not when you consider how neatly the lyrics and pictures sync up. Or that vignettes of the band’s “shenanigans” fit Jeep’s aspirations of marrying hipster culture and the great outdoors to a “T.” Or that this somewhat motley crew ends up in Portland. Well, it’s all too damn perfect.

And that’s the problem with this commercial. Despite every effort made to not look contrived it hopelessly is. In the end these so-called renegades come off as trust fund kids taking a free ride in the cool ride dad got one of ‘em for graduation.

Go Forth, for Levis. If you’re going to take someone else’s words steal from the best!


The new ELR. I got mine.

The loud guffaw over Cadillac’s new anthem TV commercial, which like many of you I at first hated, has prompted me to reconsider my position… or at least modify it somewhat.

Critics deemed the TVC elitist and arrogant. And it sort of is. A douche-y, type-A yuppie parades us through his McMansion on route to his new Caddly ELR in the ample driveway, all the while boasting about his just reward for busting ass in a tough world. He’s a go-getter straight out of the eighties and he makes no apologies for his material success. On the contrary, he’s damn proud of his many achievements, his car being one of them. “It’s simple,” he says. “You work hard. You make your own luck. And you’ve got to believe anything is possible.”

As I’ve indicated, many people found the commercial arrogant or at least wanting. Their criticisms are not without merit. The man is not likeable. Nor is his rant on earned privileges. The man also states, “Other countries don’t work so hard.” Ouch.

On the other side of things, the commercial’s defenders are having a tea party. They see the spot as an about-time ode to what makes America great. It is, they argue, the Horatio Alger story of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and “getting stuff done.” Which, if I’m not mistaken, is what Cadillac used to stand for back during, you know, the Greatest Generation.

And so the debate rages on. This story in AdAge gives you a sense of the uproar the spot caused and continues to cause.

Regardless of your take, you’ve got to give Cadillac credit for at least having the balls to strike this politically incorrect chord. It is not middling in its POV. It is not just another smarmy ode to luxury. In addition, the added publicity (positive and negative) has to be viewed as a good thing in terms of getting the brand noticed and talked about. The new school teaches us that great marketing must do more than just get noticed it must enter into the proverbial “conversation.” This commercial does so in spades.

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You can’t hate me. I’m the American Dream!

Final note: Whatever gets said here, in AdAge or anywhere else: Please Cadillac, do not apologize for your commercial. For any of it. F—k ‘em. Make another. To thine own self be true. I’m so sick of our “sorry for everything” culture. Aren’t you? What is more insincere than “I’m sorry if I offended anyone?” Precious little. Frankly, I believe it is not in our nature to be politically correct. We merely pretend in order to keep our jobs and get invited to brunch.

Anyone see this commercial for the new Mazda 3, comparing the vehicle to none other than martial arts icon, Bruce Lee. I’m old enough to remember Lee and can recall paying two bucks at the long gone Parkway Theater in Chicago to see his films. Such was Lee’s influence, all of my friends purchased nunchucks, spending hours in front of the mirror practicing his lightning fast moves. I can recall my best friend Dave splitting open his brother’s forehead during an unfortunate battle reenactment. Ah, boyhood.

Though dying young, Bruce Lee was and still is a badass. Of this there can be no debate.

What is debatable is comparing the man to an affordable sports car, or any car for that matter. The copy tells us that because of “Skyactiv technology the Mazda 3 is lighter yet stronger and more nimble” just like the martial arts master himself. “With an engine that punches above its weight.” Ouch.

The argument makes sense on one level. Bruce Lee was a compact man with a great deal of power. But on so many other levels the copy is, well, silly. Bruce Lee is dead. And he would never drive this car. Buying the rights to a few of his film clips doesn’t override the discrepancy between an icon and a middle-of-the-road sports sedan.

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Japanese car? I don’t think so.

And another thing. Mazda is a Japanese automaker. Bruce Lee was Chinese. Historically, these two countries despised one another. Whether that’s a fair statement now is beside the point. In most of Lee’s films (and in many 70’s era Kung-Fu films in general) the Chinese protagonist played a hero who battled evil Japanese foes (and their inferior karate), usually portrayed as warlords, murderers and rapists. In Fists of Fury, Bruce Lee defends Chinese honor against thuggish and racist aggression from the Japanese.

Staring in a Japanese car commercial, Bruce Lee must be banging his fists against his coffin. Furiously.

I’m sure we’ve all moved on. But this is just weird. It would be like using Mohammed Ali to sell a Chevy truck with Sweet Home Alabama as the soundtrack.

No automotive company has done more to alter their brand’s image than Cadillac. Via edgy product design and mostly provocative creative approach to advertising, Cadillac has taken a tired symbol of wealth (the car for white grandpa’s and stereotypical black pimps) and fashioned it into an aggressive lineup of slick and sporty vehicles.

This transformation happened in recent memory. Which is only to say I can still remember the other Cadillac. Vividly. My grandfather had one. I loved playing with the power windows (then a newish feature) and pretending I was in a limo. In a funeral. Which, I suppose, was exactly the problem.

Whether we like the new Cadillac or will ever purchase one remains to be seen but we must give the automaker credit for trying and succeeding in making this epic change. A lot of things could have gone wrong.

I speak from experience. Back in the day I was part of the team at Leo Burnett responsible for invigorating the Oldsmobile brand. As with Cadillac, General Motors had totally redesigned their fleet. For advertising, we’d come up with the now famous (infamous?) “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile.” Lots of history here, some controversial, which I’ve written about before. Regardless, less than a decade later Oldsmobile was out of business.

So, kudos to Cadillac! You made it into the 21st century. They and their marketing agencies deserve a lot of credit.

For me, two commercials define Cadillac’s transformation. The first one happened early on during Cadillac’s rebirthing. Visually, the spot was nothing out of the ordinary- just driving footage against beautiful scenery. But a couple things were decidedly different. First, the car itself had been conspicuously altered from every Caddy before it. So much so I’m not sure most folks (including me) had even liked it. With its bodacious lines and risky silhouette, I thought it was perhaps trying too hard to be different. Looking back I can better appreciate this radical design change. It took balls. Second, and to me just as conspicuous, was the spot’s usage of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll” for a soundtrack. Whether you consider Zep dinosaurs or not, nothing signified Cadillac’s resurgence better than this famously badass tune.


Been a long time since I did the stroll…

The other TVC I’d like to call out (posted up front) pays homage to all the great innovations and inventions having occurred in garages: HP, Apple, Amazon and numerous other hugely famous companies all mentioned by name. Including another iconic band, the garage-born Ramones! Then we see the new Cadillac coming out of a garage.

While I concede any new car could have starred in this commercial it was Cadillac that did. By linking itself to so many modern success stories, particularly in technology, Cadillac has once again has broken away from its history of being a pimp mobile or, worse yet, your grandfather’s champagne colored boat.

“It’s halftime,” says the gravelly, distinctly American voice that can only belong to one man. We see him walking down the darkened tunnel, hands in pocket, yet even in silhouette we recognize him. Even in darkness he has an aura. Even as an old man; hell, especially as an old man, Clint Eastwood rocks.

Later, in Chrysler’s Superbowl commercial, Clint tells us it’s also halftime in America. Comparing our country’s economic and political malaise to what the Motor City has already gone through the actor reminds us that WE can take a punch, that WE will get up, and that when WE do you’ll hear our engines roar.

Yeah, baby! Clint Eastwood could read the proverbial phonebook and we’d be mesmerized. I was anyway. He’s that special. Getting him to give a pep talk for Chrysler is nothing short of a coup. He’s the perfect voice for a comeback story, something Chrysler (and much of the American automobile industry) is arguably making.

Was it the best commercial in the Superbowl? Probably not. Last year I gave this same brand that accolade for their “Imported from Detroit” anthem, featuring Eminem. That spot stopped me cold, pretty much putting all the talking dogs in their pens.

Clint’s opus was less surprising. The resurgence of Detroit and the American auto industry is perhaps on the wrong side of a new idea. Still. I liked it.

Though most certainly intentional, the “halftime in America” mantra seemed too much like Hal Riney’s ultra-famous “Morning Again in America” commercial for Ronald Reagan. Still. I liked it. Amidst all the comedians, anthropomorphized animals and over-the-top storylines it was nice getting serious. It kind of made my day.

For those unawares, below is the Riney spot that many say got Mr. Reagan re-elected. Watch it. Brilliant.
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