Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds
The new Cadillac ad involves the destruction of a grand piano. Why? To demonstrate the inhumanity of motor manufacturers. Watch. Don’t buy.
It’s more palatable if you imagine that the piano belongs to … oh, i dunno … Billy Joel?
I guess it’s supposed to be sardonic
Demonstrates a lack of respect of civilization and its symbols. Stupid, adolescent.
Many years ago, Tylenol had a commercial which started with a guy who was happy that his wife had a headache — because that meant that she wouldn’t be dragging him to the ballet. Of course, she took a Tylenol and the headache went away. The ad ended with her telling him, “Honey, you’re going to love the ballet,” and his replay, “Bring the Tylenol.”
After all these years, I still refuse to buy Tylenol.
That car company is now on my banned list.
There was a cinema advertisement here in Australia a few years ago for some company (I can no longer remember what it was for) that used a trebuchet to throw a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow across a field. People would applaud that advertisement. I cringed seeing this as a lover of fine things, especially pianos (this ad) and classic cars.
In my advertising days, this was a flaw we called “borrowed interest”: seize on something away or aside from the product, to draw attention, and attempt to lead back to the product. It is a strategy that never works.
In the Cadillac case here, we have negative borrowed interest, which, as in Jeffrey’s Tylenol example above, may actually DAMAGE the brand.
The agency and client-side marketing team should be reprimanded, particularly given the sizeable budget.
On the other hand, there was, a few years back, a car ad which showed a well-dressed young couple, on a rainy night, who saw a poor, bedraggled puppy by the side of the road. They slow down, and we see them glance at the dashboard, on which are two tickets to “Swan Lake”. They obviously want to go to the ballet — the implication, of course, is that ballet is good and desirable — but of course decide to rescue the puppy.
Here’s the important thing, though: I doubt I’ll ever forget the Tylenol ad, yet I cannot for the life of me remember which car was being advertised in the other commercial. The negative borrowed interest is more powerful than the positive.
Right, because those little wheels on the thin legs were meant to withstand bumps like that, not unlike rubber wheels with traction. Sure…
As a pianist I can only strongly disagree with this lack of consciousness and of moral values.
Now if Toyota and Yamaha, or Volkswagen and Steinway really wanted to cash in, they could create an ad that celebrated great music and made the connection to their product, while spoofing the cultural crassness and technological inferiority of the Cadillac. (Remember when years ago it was revealed that GM put Chevrolet engines in their Cadillacs?) They could start, for example, with a chimp playing some vacuous nonsense from American Idol on a white sequin studded electric piano set next to a Cadillac sputtering smoke from its tailpipe. Then after the chimp destroys the piano and jumps up and down on the Cadillac cackling hysterically, the scene morphs into someone (not Arnold) playing the Emperor concerto or something else glorious on the grand piano as the featured car drives off to an arson free Valhalla. It’s the germ of an idea whose time may never come.
I imagine the idea of product placing a competitor’s product made to look worse than it is would hardly go down well.
And what’s the problem with using one engine in another car? This is how most cars are, now. Many VW parts in any Skoda, the Audi Q7, Volkswagen Toureg and a few other of those vehicles are all built in the same plant, same chassis… just a different body and finish.
Oh noes!!!11! Has someone contacted the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pianos? Is there an open letter or a petition to sign to protest this outrage? A “Human Rights Commission” should be sicced on the advertising agency and Cadillac for their crass violation of the sensitivities of the precious aesthetes hereabouts! Grief counselors will be made available for those overwhelmed by this psychic assault.
It’s an inanimate object of no special significance. Get over yourselves.
(1) The ad is uniquely stupid
(2) Far better would be an ad showing the destruction of a Cadillac as a pianist performs the Ligeti “Devil’s Staircase ” (Etude 13)
I’m unlikely to be in the market any time soon for a motor vehicle, but Cadillac deserve all the opprobrium they get for this ad. This is so NOT a good advert, it’s a ‘how not to do it’. Anyone else feel it was like watching a wounded animal collapsing & dying? suggest everyone tells them this, via the Facebook page….
Pianos considered uneconomical to repair are routinely scrapped. In the best of cases, the strings are removed, the iron frame is separated from the case for recycling, and major timbers from the case are set aside for re-use. More commonly, the instrument is simply consigned to a landfill or an incinerator. Occasionally, entire instruments or piles of instruments are loaded over kindling in a field and set on fire. The snapping of the strings as they melt is said to be impressive.
The piano represents old and stodgy—supported by the background music. These bozos consider classical music to be irrelevant at best, and something to be laughed at at worst. Of course the particular piano is an inanimate object of no special significance. It’s what it represents. Just as most most males are shown as incompetant, non-threatening boobs in US advertizing.
I’m not entirely sure I agree about the reference to classical music. I think it’s the inherent humour of a grand piano, particularly one moving on its less than nimble wheels, which is the main idea. They are rather daft objects when they’re out of the concert hall. (And that’s a baby grand, which looks even more ungainly.)
I do think we need to guard against over-sensitivity about visual representations of things which are close to our hearts. There are other cultures – I won’t name them – which do that and it’s a dodgy path to follow.
Anyway we all know classical music is great, so we don’t need to worry. Now we just need to persuade politicians to support it properly. And I mean properly. And that means funding school instrument lessons for starters.
Don’t be so precious. It’s just a crummy old piano.
(And people have long done silly things with pianos, such as chucking them out of aeroplanes.)
Of course I’d buy a Cadillac. What a stupid non issue.
Many commercials cost 10 times more than thus yet no one says “why didn’t they trim the budget $100,000 and donate that money to…..”?
Was probably a broken or prop piano anyway, just painted to look new and shiny.
Wait, pianos are human now?
In one of the earlier Batman films (say, 20 years ago) there was a scene in which works of art in a gallery were vandalised. I heard quite a few people not known for their interest in art talk about their unease at this scene. A bit like book burning I suppose. I think there was a feeling that it was cynically designed to appeal to unhealthy attitudes in a section of the audience.
People who say “so what?” are missing the point. As the title says, the issue is “Why?”.
As for Cadillac, I couldn’t see any reason to buy one in the first place.
May our shocks be absorbed by reverting to the achievements of such great artists and inventors as, for instance, Mr Josef Hofmann.
But when you put your name to it, it’s art:
Cute how they removed the bridge.
Man plays burning piano:
Radical Music Making -Destroying Piano- Performed by Leigh Dyer – Sculptor Artist
Chain saw vs. piano:
M.I.T. students drop piano from roof (a yearly event):
I didn’t see any intentional knock on classical music, per se.
OTOH it seemed pointless to the purpose of selling a Caddy.
Perhaps they should have used a Lincoln instead.
I cant even says it’s a good ad.
Pretty silly ad, and the instrument(s), for they must have had several, are very heavily prepared. Most pianos are too well built to fall apart in such an aesthetically convenient way.
That’s nothing compared to the destruction Cadillac inflicted on their brand when they produced the Catera.
well I suppose if you want to appeal to Neanderthal type people (at best) to buy your cars then I imagine it might be effective, but even they may not be that obtuse.. Pretty dumb as an ad. Who on earth would be attracted to this kind of message unless they be a couple of cards short of a full deck? I ask, by the way if the ad maker has any notion of the comparison of the longevity of a grand piano as compared to a Cadillac. I never thought of it before but now i do .. hope producers of said instrument take full advantage of this half-baked ad and use it to sell more.. No car can match the creative genius that can come out of any musical instrument (or paintbrush or pen..) nor can they outlast their working “lifetime”. This is such a painfully stupid ad
Yes a piano is an innanimate object, and may well be old, worn out and useless. But somehow it does hurt to see it being destroyed. Just like watching a violin being smashed, or a trombone being crushed. Remember the cello and marching band scene from Woody Allen’s “Take the money and run” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57FUphSl2vA&hl=en-GB&gl=SG ) funny to watch, but then when the cello gets stamped on, somehow it ceases to be funny and it hurts. It is quite illogical, of course.
In James Bond films, we watch all manner of things being shot or blown to pieces, and it is all good fun, yet when in “Living Daylights” a cello gets shot, if feels wrong.
I suppose musicians see a significance or symbolism in instruments, which other people may not. We form a life-long relationship with our instruments, often based on taking extreeme care with them, infusing them with personalities, coming to love them, and it is shocking to see others treating them with disrespect.
But it is what is in our mind that is hurt.
I can imagine that other people may feel the same towards… a beautiful watch, quality jewelery, a fine car, an exquisite photograph, an heirloom, a childhood toy – anything that they have a strong association with.
Maybe, unintentionally, we turn our instruments into horcruxes.
Waste. Sheer waste. And to no good purpose.
It’s gotten us all talking about Cadillac.
But not rushing to buy one.
Author, novelist, broadcaster, cultural commentator.
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