I love TV auto commercials. They are expensively done with meticulous care. They are composed of a sequence of brief shots, often lasting less than a second, that must suggest a story in the mind of the viewer. They are today’s Haiku poetry.
My favorite, by far, is the Cadillac commercial, “The Evolution of Luxury,” even though I only watch the first six seconds. But what incredible six seconds they are. You can watch it here.
It opens with an ancient Egyptian beating out time on a drum. The camera pans out and we see he is part of a procession, slowly transporting a live goddess (pharaohess?) on an immense alter carried on the shoulders of an army of men. The camera zooms in on her. The glaring sun behind her squints our eyes, almost washing out her image, but we can see she is looking directly at us and smiling knowingly. What a smile! As enigmatic as the Mona Lisa, and we only see her for one second.
I am still trying to understand the stunning affect she has on me, at my age. She is not exceptionally pretty or sexy by conventional standards, but her heavily freckled face is distinctive and can be interpreted in many ways. The setting in ancient Egypt frees my fantasies to soar far beyond any rationality. For a moment I am Yul Brynner’s Moses standing on the sand, and that feels good.
There is something about her smile. It is not a warm, inviting smile, but a strange, conspiratorial smile that says to me, “You and I both know I am nothing special, but let’s play along with this charade.” It may say something different to you, but it will say something. In that one second, I am caught up in the fantasy. She picked me out of that immense crowd, and we are connected. We will meet again. Women can speak volumes with a single glance.
Her expression is not accidental. That fraction of a second was picked from perhaps a dozen other possibilities that must have been discussed in many contentious meetings at an ad agency. Whoever fought to get this one accepted was a genius. He (and it must have been a “he”) got it exactly right.
According to the Internet, the actress is Nikia Phoenix. That sounds like a stage name, and is irrelevant anyway because it is the full concept that pulls it off. (She claims to only be a model, but of course, all models are actors portraying someone they are not.) The thumping music background adds a lot, and I understand it is an old song “Fame” by David Bowie. The lyrics are unintelligible, which is good for the commercial because they are about the futility of fame and are distinctly anti-Cadillac. One typical line says, “Fa-ame, puts you there where things are hollow.” Hollow things, like driving a Caddy?
Nikia Phoenix has a website at http://nikiaphoenix.tumblr.com/ It has many photos that illustrate her mysteriously enchanting looks. After seeing them, I reconsider about her looks. She is exceptionally pretty and sexy. Much of the impact of the commercial does flow from her captivating, very brief opening appearance. Good job, Nikia. And a good job by whoever chose you. Love the freckles!
(The commercial has drawn some protest—a mere handful out of millions who have seen it—because the main story line shows a very wealthy, young black couple stopping at an upscale desert hotel where they are met by a white bellhop who follows them in carrying their suitcase. The protests are not about the obvious pandering of the message, which should draw protests, but of the perceived message itself. No one seems to care that Nikia, an apparent black woman, is being carried on the shoulders of a thousand white dudes. The real and only message, of course, is about selling Cadillacs.)
Note, 12/3/2016: If you haven’t seen Nikia’s website recently, go back again. It is now very extensive and gives a good idea of her personality. You can even see her mama and an old photo of maybe her grandparents. Keep scrolling down and you will find more and more. She is opening her closet for you.