'Alt-Right' Casting Call Puts Cadillac on Defensive

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Cadillac and its agencies are dealing with backlash from a commercial casting call that circulated on social media over the weekend seeking "any and all real alt-right thinkers/believers."

Casting notice
Casting notice Credit: via Reuters

The General Motors brand was forced to disavow the casting notice on Saturday after it drew negative attention on social media where it was circulated. "Cadillac did not authorize or approve a casting notice for an 'alt-right (neo-nazi)' role in a commercial. We unequivocally condemn the notice and are seeking immediate answers from our creative agency, production company and any casting companies involved," Cadillac stated on its Facebook page.

Responsibility appears to lie with a casting service called the Cast Station, which issued the following apology on its Facebook page: "A casting notice for an 'alt-right' role in a Cadillac commercial was issued by mistake on Friday, Dec 9th. The notice was drafted by an employee, who was immediately terminated for her actions. Additionally an outside third party further altered the breakdown without our knowledge and posted it on social media. Cadillac unequivocally did not authorize this notice or anything like it, and we apologize to Cadillac for the ex-employee's actions."

Ad Age attempted to reach the Cast Station via a contact number provided on its website, but a person taking the call hung up after an Ad Age reporter identified himself. The company did not answer follow-up calls and did not immediately return an email and a phone message seeking a response.

Cadillac's creative agency-of-record is Publicis New York. The agency did not immediately provide comment when reached by Ad Age on Monday morning.

An image of the casting call posted by Reuters (above) includes the Cast Station's name and described the role sought as "real alt-right people." The notice describes the ad as "a beautifully artistic spot that is captureing [sic] all walks of life of America. Standing together as a union. This is not meant to be offensive in anyway. Just a representation of all sides." Reuters reported that the notice also called for "real current or retired military people," as well as "real Olympian runner/cyclist" and "real taxi driver."

The use of the phrase "alt-right" drew condemnation on social media. The so-called alternative right generally refers to people who reject the political mainstream and has also been linked to white supremacists and neo-Nazis. (Cadillac, in its apology, used the phrase neo-Nazi in its description.)

No matter where the responsibility lies, the incident and associated negative PR is not good for Cadillac, which has sought to position itself as a progressive brand targeting younger generations. The brand's core marketing campaign, called "Dare Greatly," leans heavily on emotions and ideas, adhering to Chief Marketing Officer Uwe Ellinghaus's philosophy that auto marketing must move beyond just showing vehicles. Cadillac spent heavily during this year's Oscars with ads featuring nine entrepreneurs whose ages ranged from 15 to 25.

"Just showing a car in an ad and hop[ing] it will do the job is no longer as successful as it used to be," Mr. Ellinghaus said in an interview earlier this year. "More and more people say: 'What is this brand's reason to exist? What is it actually about?'"

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