Cadillac: The Official Sponsor of Workaholics

A Penny for Your Thoughts

I’m an ad guy and I want to talk about a new Cadillac ad that’s pretty controversial. Knowing the sharp minds that come to our blog and make Joanna and me feel smarter by osmosis, I wanted to open up a discussion and hear your thoughts. Here’s the ad:

Our Take

The copywriter in me loves it. Provocative, different, thought-provoking. This wasn’t your typical car ad set on some unrealistic barren desert floor while a rich, baritone voiceover rattles off standard luxury features, APR rates, and the engine’s comparative power to horses (we still haven’t figured out a better way to measure that?). The admakers deserve credit for taking a chance on a script they likely knew would ruffle a few feathers.

The American in me loves it. Lines like, “Got a car up [on the moon] and left the keys in it — do you know why? Because we’re the only ones going back up there, that’s why.” And “You work hard, create your own luck, and you gotta believe that anything is possible.” We’re not a nation of siestas — we’re a nation of “Just do it”ers. And we’ll be darned if we don’t reward ourselves for all that American Dream-ing. Arrogant? A little. Obnoxious? Sure. But it’s an American ad for an American audience.

The personal finance blogger and budgeter in me hates it. This ad captures much of what’s wrong in our country (and world). Here’s why:

  • We’re too work focused. When having families and spending time with them becomes an obstacle and something we have to plan around our 9-5’s (or 8-8’s), we’ve got our priorities backwards.
  • I’d much rather have a month off in August and keep my Corolla, thank you very much.
  • Stuff is overrated. And stuff is why many don’t live within their means. This ad tells me that if I work hard, I deserve nice stuff. Fair enough. Joanna and I like nice stuff! The trouble is that most people watching this ad can’t afford nice stuff, despite the fact that they work their butts off. But as we all know too well, affording and being able to buy something don’t mean the same thing. The Debt Monster loves to help us get stuff we can’t afford.
  • I’d like to believe we don’t work hard so that we can afford more stuff. We should work hard so that we can do more stuff. Like taking vacations, spending more time with our families, taking care of our health, etc.

That’s where my head’s at. What’s your take? Love the ad, hate the ad, feeling a sudden itch to drive down to your nearest Cadillac dealer and schedule a test drive? Talk amongst yourselves.

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  • Reply Jordann March 5, 2014 at 7:33 am

    I pretty much have the same reaction as you. I love the work, it’s a great ad, but I loathe the message. In fact, I think ads like this are the reason there are so many people in North America working their asses off at jobs they don’t like so they can buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

    I’m like you. I work hard so I can spend time with my family, travel, and relax. I’m happy with a modest lifestyle because I have zero interest in working from 8-8 every day.

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:15 am

      Yes, the work-so-you-can-buy-nice-things cycle is a vicious one because it leaves you wanting more every time!

    • Reply Danny C. March 31, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Ford’s parody of the commercial. It would be a very weird commercial on its own since they mimic the Cadillac commercial in speech mannerisms but with the exact opposite message. Makes it that much better viewed one right after the other.

      • Reply Johnny April 7, 2014 at 12:24 am

        Agreed. That’s a pretty smart and effective rebuttal ad.

  • Reply Dana March 5, 2014 at 7:33 am

    I hate this commercial. It makes my blood boil. I will leave the room if it comes on. It is unbelieveably arrogant and insulting to other cultures and another way of life. I especially hated that this was airing during the Olympics which is supposed to be a time where we all come together and celebrate our world’s countries.

    I personally think that we have it backwards here and that we shouldn’t be soley focusing on work. That’s not what life is about. I love stuff, don’t get me wrong but it is not the most important thing. As an avid traveller, I can say that a lot of people in other countries think Americans are crazy and that all we care about is work. So this commercial probably wouldn’t bother them it would just make them roll their eyes and just points out how we have it wrong.

    The fact that this is a GM commercial is not surprising to me. I worked at their corporate headquarters and this is their exact attitude and culture. It was brutal and would be why I don’t work their anymore 🙂

    • Reply zoe @ my unhoardED life March 5, 2014 at 9:19 am

      amen. I also walked out of the room. Excellent point — the commercial is so insulting to other cultures. I hope they take it off the air soon. I’ll never by a caddilac.

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:19 am

      Yup, definitely not in line with the spirit of the Olympics! Glad you saw through a toxic work culture and got out of there, Dana!

  • Reply cherise March 5, 2014 at 8:19 am

    I’m an ad person too. Love the creativity and fresh perspective on it. (Is it really fresh or is it tired, I don’t know…) Having just gotten off a free lance job that cost me 86 hours of my life last week I am certain I don’t want a life like that for any car, or any stuff. Also, having spent some time in France recently, I have a new perspective on enjoying family and friends even in a country that doesn’t enjoy the freedoms we do here. So, I’m with you. Love the ad. Hate the ad. I’m happy to be grounded enough to know that stuff isn’t going to satisfy.

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:26 am

      You are one hard-working woman! I’m practically comatose by the end of a 40-hour work week, so good job on getting through 86 hours!! We’ve embraced so much about other cultures on our country. Why can’t we just embrace the siestas and extra weeks off, too?!

  • Reply Lauren March 5, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I absolutely hate this commercial and its message. I loathe the smug superiority that the guy projects. I think it reinforces an ugly stereotype that many people believe is true of Americans- that we think we’re somehow better and smarter than everyone else. To suggest that people in other countries don’t work their asses off just as much as anyone here is completely insulting. I agree that it encapsulates everything that is wrong with our consumerist mentality- work and sacrifice free time to accumulate more and more stuff. So ridiculous! Clearly, I have a lot of feels about it, haha.

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Yes, there’s a difference in working hard and giving your life up for your work. I’d love to know what kind of person this ad actually appeals to!

  • Reply Insourcelife March 5, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Creative ad, but what an arrogant POS at the same time! ‘MERICA! Like we need to further enhance our image as a bunch of a-holes any more. Besides that, the message is wrong on so many levels that I don’t even know where to begin.

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:30 am

      Yes, let’s hope the number of non-Americans who see this ad is kept to a minimum… it definitely plays into some pretty terrible stereotypes!

  • Reply zoe @ my unhoardED life March 5, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I saw that commercial during the olympics and was outraged! I love nice stuff, but that’s not why I work. I work because I love it and need it to stay sane (I’m super lucky). The nice stuff is just a benefit. But if my employer would let me take a pay cut in excange for an extra four weeks of a year, I’ll take it! In fact, I’m doing just that this year. Can’t wait for summer!

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Good for you! Way to find that work-life balance. How can we get all of our bosses make extra vacation time an option?!

  • Reply andee March 5, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Yes! This commercial immediately sets of an internal dialogue in me that can run on for half an hour. Begins with pride, ends with embarrassment for being taken in by a commercial. I’ve even told my husband I love that commercial but I totally disagree with its main point.

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:32 am

      Me tooo! When I first started watching it, I was all like, “Yeahh!!” And then at the end I felt duped.

  • Reply Sharon March 5, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Okay, this ad didn’t invoke any kind of emotion in me. To me, all it meant was that if you want a Cadillac, you have to work long hours. Oops, that may not be the intention of Cadillac, right?
    Insulting to other countries? I don’t think so. He actually made the ‘siesta’ country sound appealing to me.
    Anyway, outrage seems a bit extreme for a car ad. Don’t like the ad? Don’t buy the car. Save your outrage for something really important.

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:33 am

      Siestas sound very appealing to me, too! How can we make that happen???

  • Reply Anna // Gone Banannas March 5, 2014 at 10:15 am

    To be perfectly honest, I didn’t re-watch the Cadillac ad because I hate car commercials pretty much as a rule. BUT, I totally agree with all of the reasons you stated you didn’t like it. I am a firm believer in work hard and play hard. As in, working hard should lead to DOING fun things and not just buying fun things (although I am all for buying hair products that promise to make your hair look like you stole it off of a Greek goddess.) This is why, for the most part, my boyfriend and I try to get each other gifts that involve making memories of some sort together. Last year for his birthday, I got him an ultimate driving experience package which involved him being able to drive a Ferrari on a pre-set race course. The look of happiness on his face will last me a lifetime!

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:38 am

      Yup… if you work too hard, it doesn’t matter how many fun things you have because you won’t have time to use them.

      And the award for the best gift giver EVER goes to Anna!!! Your boyfriend is never gonna be able to top that.

  • Reply Cate M. March 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I found some humor in the commercial but I guess I didn’t have any strong feelings toward it either way. I work hard so that I can afford to DO things with my family, I like my 10 year old car that has some rust and over 100,000 miles on it. Why? It’s paid off. I would rather take the money that I would spend on that very nice looking Cadillac and put it toward karate classes for my 2 year old or a family date night.
    Some people would rather work hard to have nice things. I know a few people who get rid of cars as soon as they even approach the 80,000 mile mark. They just like nice stuff. They aren’t bad people or parents, its just their preference.
    That’s all it is- personal preference. For those who like nicer things, then they will probably be motivated to go talk to a local Cadillac dealer.
    Me? I just enjoyed watching the commercial, probably as much as the commercial that came on after it.

    • Reply Joanna March 6, 2014 at 12:44 am

      I love your comment, Cate! It really is just personal preference. It sounds like you’re pretty darn happy choosing what you’ve chosen. And there’s no reason to sit around passing judgement on people who choose the Cadillac. Good thoughts!

  • Reply Hallie March 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    On initial viewing I found it icky but Johnny made a point that I missed: the ad suggests that if you work long hours you WILL have lots of stuff. The problem in the United States is that there are plenty of people working a lot for very little. I didn’t catch that initially. It’s more of that “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” “if you want it go get it” messaging that obscures our growing income and opportunity inequalities.

  • Reply Miranda March 5, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Objectively speaking, as an advertisement, I think it did its job. Got my attention, made me chuckle/think, and got me curious enough about the car (that wasn’t even visible for the first two thirds of the video) that I’d be interested enough to Google it.

    As far as any social commentary goes, I think its basic premise is flawed. The ad alludes that America is THE hardest working country in the world, but I think when compared to certain Asian countries (where people are working so hard that they just die at their desks/commit suicide), we look. dare I say…. lazy? And yet, those same countries aren’t tapped into the ‘work hard/play hard’ mentality. Sure, there are wealthy people, but no one’s first thought is “rampant consumerism’ when they think ‘Japan’. They work that way because of family/social pressure (and many other reasons I’m surely ignorant of).

    I don’t think we’re a country of people who work hard so they CAN afford nice things, we are a country that works hard BECAUSE we like nice things (that we often can’t afford). If this were a chicken vs. egg metaphor, the ‘stuff’ would be what ‘comes first’. As a nation, we go out and buy (usually on credit) items that we think will improve our quality of life or impress others and then try to find a job with a salary that supports that lifestyle. I have certainly been guilty of this myself. Of course, there are plenty of individuals for whom this doesn’t apply (like yous guys), but I think just taking a look at our real time national debt clock (, will suffice as a decent enough reference to support my theory.

    Oddly enough, since we’ve become debt free (and more ‘financially stable’), I have found that our appetite for ‘stuff’ has been greatly suppressed. Case in point: Our first apartment was a crappy $600/month loft that we filled with brand new furniture and electronics (on credit). We now live in a (much nicer) home and the majority of our furniture is DIY/Thrifted/Craiglisted/Had it forever (and looks just as good) and we still haven’t upgraded (most of) our electronics in the 7ish years since (and we probably won’t until they break down on us). We even go out to eat/go to the movies/buy ‘stuff’ less now than we did when we made less than half the amount of money we do now. Go figure.

    • Reply Johnny March 6, 2014 at 12:41 am

      Great points. I had that same conversation with Joanna that while we like to beat our chests about being “so hard-working,” in many ways, there’s some sheer laziness going on in our country.

      Getting out of debt will do some interesting things to the “stuff” trigger in your brain. Now that we’re a few years removed from our debt days, I can sense a reawakening of sorts. But now that I’ve got that debt clock link, I’ll just pull that up anytime I get an urge to splurge. 🙂

  • Reply Alicia March 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    this commercial is gross. I for one would way rather have the month of August off than a Cadillac. Although, I’d probably never drive a Cadillac regardless of finances, probably because to me they’ve always represented this arrogant American feeling.

    • Reply Johnny March 6, 2014 at 12:36 am

      August-cation sounds awesome, right? I wish I had never known that was even a thing. Now I’m going to resent August and Europe every year.

  • Reply Tarynkay March 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    I am never going to buy a Cadillac. Even if I won the lottery, I still would not buy a Cadillac. BUT I love the ad. It is refreshingly honest. They aren’t trying to tell you that buying a Cadillac will give you a fulfilling family life, or allow you to have wonderful off-road adventures, or it’s good for the environment, or even that it will keep your kids safe and you are therefore a bad parent for not buying the car.

    The car is just more stuff. In fact, even though they show a family, the wife and kids are almost treated like more possessions- he just sort of walks through and shows them off as he is monologuing, there is no real interaction. I don’t want this guy’s life and I would not want to be this guy’s wife, either. In fact, seeing this commercial inspires me to keep driving my 12 year old hatchback and treasure the time I have with my family since I am not working to make a car payment.

    But I appreciate that the car company is being really honest here- here is this car and it is very shiny and pretty and new but it is just stuff. You can work your life away and buy something like this. Some people like this kind of thing. Since they don’t just make commercials for the fun of it, this probably really speaks to some people. Those people are probably far more likely to buy a Cadillac than I am.

    The part about it feeding the debt monster, insulting other cultures, and making people who work their butts off for very little money doesn’t bother me any more than any other commercial. Almost all marketing does these things. I just expect that when I see commercials.

    • Reply Johnny March 6, 2014 at 12:35 am

      Good take. I like your point about the honesty of the ad. It’s selling the lifestyle and mentality, not a car. That was one thing I loved about the ad — the car gets about 5-10 seconds of airtime. I also don’t think we (meaning anyone outside of the top 5%) were the intended audience, anyway. So who am I to say if it’s effective/ineffective.

  • Reply Rob March 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    “stuff is why many don’t live within their means”

    Exactly! And that is because many people work for “wants” instead of for “needs”. And it’s also because money (and thus – thru it’s use – the obscene lust for material possessions) is more and more considered a way to compare oneself (and one’s self worth) to those around us. Which spins off into other related social ills – all related to the pursuit of wanting always “more”. Not being an American, I’m not here to throw stones at American glass houses (nor their car commercials). This wave of “entitlement” living is epidemic in many other countries around the world. But ya know something – karma does happen to all of us (or to our offspring) – all in due time …

    • Reply Rob March 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      And here is what Karma eventually did to this poor guy:

    • Reply Johnny March 6, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Karma’s a witch… that’s how it goes, right? 😉

      Stuff, wants, entitlement — that’s what sums up much of our current generation right now. I think there’s a minor movement to stem that tide, but my profession (advertising) surely ain’t making that any easier to resist.

  • Reply Lilybett March 5, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I love Neal McDonough and could listen to that guy talk all day. As a non-car-lover, I appreciate the distinctive style compared to other car ads (we get a lot of European car ads here in Australia with luxury cars driving on the wrong side of the road around Alp-like mountains). As an environmentally-conscious person, I like that Cadillac (a company I’d consider the king of gas-guzzlers) is putting out an electric car and taking a risk with their branding in their prime market. As an Australian, I think it makes Americans sound like idiots, and draws on a whole lot of stereotypes about yourselves that really aren’t that great but it’s not an ad intended for me so that doesn’t really matter – it’s not like most Americans care what the rest of the world thinks of them anyway (or are aware that China’s put their own rover on the moon).

    • Reply Johnny March 6, 2014 at 12:27 am

      Neal McDonough’s a pretty cool dude. And to be honest, that’s a pretty cool looking Caddy, too. I get where the ad probably makes us look/sound stupid. I don’t think this is the ad I’d choose to show off America to non-Americans.

  • Reply Carlotta March 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    ah! that’s a funny commercial!he’s talking about europeans! we do stop to drink coffee a lot, and we do have , most of the time , 3 weeks off in August! and we do think Americans are kinda crazy 🙂 in a good way of course!!

    • Reply Johnny March 6, 2014 at 12:19 am

      Haha. I am extremely jealous of your August vacations. For some reason, I’d never heard of that before.

      • Reply Carlotta March 6, 2014 at 3:03 am

        yeah. If you’re in Italy don’t try to do anything constructive between August 10 and August 31.. We’re all at the beach! ah!

  • Reply Michelle March 5, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I love this ad-but it’s a personal finance/lifestyle balance Jedi Mind Trick.

    • Reply Johnny March 6, 2014 at 12:17 am

      Difficult it is. Agree with you I do.

  • Reply Krista.kelly March 6, 2014 at 1:58 am

    I dispise this commercial!! It boils my blood when i see it–It is exactly what is wrong with the economy. Spend on credit to look good. Don’t worry about family time . Read a good quote recently “no matter how big the bank account or stuff you accumulate, the grave boxes are all the same size– stay humble”

    • Reply Joanna March 10, 2014 at 12:37 am

      Totally, Krista. The message of the commercial is really messed up. And that quote you shared is spot on!

  • Reply Chaney March 6, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Gosh, I completely agree with ALL of the comments above. I have nothing more to add…to your thoughts about the ad. (Nice play on words there, I know.) Y’all hit the nail on the head!

    • Reply Joanna March 10, 2014 at 12:38 am

      And I will not add anything on the ad either :). Glad to hear you agree!

  • Reply Nicole March 6, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    From an advertising perspective (I’m not in advertising), I’m guessing this ad is pretty successful- it has people talking. Granted, I doubt most of us that read your blog are Cadillac’s intended audience, but PR is PR right?

    Personally, the ad itself does nothing for me- I’m not offended, I don’t think it’s offensive to other cultures, and it does not make me want to buy a Cadillac. However, I’m a stay-at-home mom with young kids, so I’m far from Cadillac’s target market. If it did appeal to me, I would assume Cadillac missed its mark.

    • Reply Joanna March 10, 2014 at 12:41 am

      I think you’re right that it’s probably been pretty successful. And I agree… this ad is TOTALLY not directed at me, either. I work from sun up to sun down taking care of a baby, and I don’t even get one day off a year :).

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup March 7, 2014 at 11:12 am

    While I thought the ad was well done, it made me think that we do work too much. I don’t work in order to buy more things, I work to provide for my family and give us opportunities to do things in the future.

    • Reply Joanna March 10, 2014 at 12:43 am

      Definitely, Grayson. I’d like to think that’s the reason most Americans work hard (hopefully!).

  • Reply Tara @ Streets Ahead Living March 7, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    I’ll admit, the commercial was different and well made. But as soon as I heard it, it made me angry. It advocates working your ass off to buy an unnecessarily expensive car and that drives me bananas. And we’re supposed to be proud of that? Germans take vacations. Maybe not unnecessary ones but they’re known to be hard workers AND also known to stop working after 5PM. What’s wrong with that?

    • Reply Joanna March 10, 2014 at 12:44 am

      Yes, we’ve gotta keep that balance! It seems like being a workaholic is like some badge of honor in our country, which is kind of weird. What are we living for if we work all the time?

  • Reply Weekly Wrap-Up #6 - The Write Budget March 9, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    […] Cadillac: The Official Sponsor of Workaholics by Johnny at Our Freakin’ Budget- Have you seen this commercial?  While I know it is just an ad, I agree that it epitomizes so much of what is wrong with our consumerist culture today. […]

  • Reply Lindsey March 12, 2014 at 9:52 am

    So much to love about your response. Can’t get enough of these lines. Can you make them into snazzy, pinable images that I can print and repost? 🙂
    -I’d much rather have a month off in August and keep my Corolla, thank you very much.
    -I’d like to believe we don’t work hard so that we can afford more stuff. We should work hard so that we can do more stuff.

    I have this article bookmarked from 2012 to remind me to buy experiences instead of things:

    • Reply Johnny March 18, 2014 at 12:55 am

      That article is amazing. I read it back in 2012 and I think it’s responsible for a lot of that “experiences first” mentality that we’ve grown to love. Such a great read.

  • Reply Hilary March 19, 2014 at 1:25 am

    We are so on the same wavelength! My internal reaction was something like, “F– you, Cadillac, I want that vacation! How dare you try to manipulate me into feeling that’s less important than flashing a shiny big-a$$ car…in the parking lot at work, since that’s where I’d have to be all the time!” The actor played a villian on some show I watched a while back as well, which may have additionally rankled me. 🙂

    • Reply Johnny March 23, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Haha. Yeah, he did look familiar. I think he was a dad on The OC or something… not that I ever watched that show or anything… oops.

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