I'm not sure Cadillac's "Dare Greatly" spot—ushering in a big new campaign that will break Sunday on the Oscars—will ever win any awards. But the commercial, among the automaker's first efforts from Publicis, is distinctive and represents a shift from Caddy's approach a year ago.
A passage from Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 "Citizenship in a Republic" speech—delivered by a female narrator—washes dreamily over slow-motion images of Manhattan streets. (Cadillac, of course, is moving its global headquarters from Detroit to New York City.) Some folks walk, others run. Bikers glide past. All of this happens s-l-o-w-l-y. We're getting a car's-eye view, presumably from a Cadillac, but no vehicles are actually shown.
"This is the start of a redefining of Cadillac's core values," a brand rep told the Detroit Free Press. The 90-second online spot will be chopped into a :60 and a :30 for the Academy Awards, while two other Cadillac spots—at least one of which shows a car—will also run during the broadcast.
"Dare Greatly" is hypnotically shot and quite arresting. Plus, it's got built-in resistance to criticism. "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better," the voiceover says.
Ouch! Then who does count?
"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood … who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Strong stuff. With an understated voiceover and ethereal visuals, it's far less polarizing than Cadillac's "Poolside" spot from IPG's Rogue, which broke during the 2014 Winter Olympics and went on to become one of the most controversial ads of the year.
I much prefer Roosevelt's prose to scary-privileged Neal McDonough in the pitchman's pulpit. That guy was just a big bully.