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The Devil Isn't Just in the Details

Education & Training

Willem Dafoe as the Devil

Along with millions of others, I watched the Superbowl yesterday.  Superbowl XLVII was an exciting game!  The outcome wasn't determined until the final play.  Of course, in addition to the football contest itself, the television commercials during the game have come to generate their own interest, spectacle and Monday-morning second-guessing: "Who had the best commercial?"  "Who had the worst?"  Animal spots seem to be a favorite- In recent years, the Monday after the Superbowl coworkers at Stewart Title have asked if I saw the chimp commercials.  This year it was a goat.

The commercial that most caught my attention yesterday, however, was the Mercedes "soul" ad.  Here is a link to it:


In the ad, a young man sitting alone at a restaurant booth looks through the window and sees a billboard for the new Mercedes Benz sedan.  Instantly, the Devil appears (played by Willem Dafoe), who offers the man a glimpse into how wonderful his life would be if he owned that car: He'd be on the red carpet with supermodel Kate Upton, dancing with pop star Usher, dating multiple beautiful women, adored by multitudes, and winning NASCAR races.  In short, the car would make all of his fantasies come true.

The Devil gives the young man a pen with which to sign away his soul.  Ink-tip poised over the infernal contract, the man looks back out the window and realizes the car only costs about $30,000.  "I've got this," he says, setting aside the pen to the Devil's dismay.

I like Mercedes.  When I was younger I used to own an old 280 SEL, and I loved that car.  But, I was really disappointed with the commercial... not with its production value, which was excellent.  Rather, I was disappointed with the implications of its message.

What bothered me most was the man's portrayal as just about to sign.  Thankfully for him, I suppose, Mercedes came through with a low sticker price, allowing him to potentially purchase the car and avoid eternal damnation.  But that's the problem... What sticker price would have caused the man to sign?  $50,000?  $100,000 or more?  He was about to sign it, so he must have had some budgetary limits he was willing to forego by pawning his immortal soul.  No matter the price, isn't it alarming that he was willing to sell his soul for a car?

Taking all theology out of it, there is an implication that not only our souls but our principles have a sticker price- and we are willing to sell them if the material rewards are high enough.  That's an alarming message, especially considering the flak and rancor surrounding excesses on Wall Street the last few years.  Without assigning any blame, consider too that the recent housing and mortgage crisis in America was due in large part to consumers borrowing far more than they could repay... Should the mentality behind these debacles be celebrated?

Unfortunately, it's not sexy to live within your means.  Buying only what you can afford probably will keep fantasies purely within the realm of fantasy.  But is that truly so bad?  Is life unacceptable without luxury cars and supermodels?  Mercedes is not to blame for the world's entitlement mentality.  Nor is the play on a Faustian bargain a new plot device.  Such stories actually go back at least as far as the 6th century.  As the world matures, though, it may be time to keep such fables in the realm of cautionary tales, not advertisements.  Otherwise we may risk conveying the ideal that there are shortcuts to success, and that the sacrifice of principles can be justified for the right price.

marti garaughty
garaughty.com - Montreal, QC
a highly caffeinated creative type...

garaughty, abstract art, graphic design, WordPress consultant

Feb 04, 2013 05:55 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Marti: Thank you, I really appreciate the feedback!

Feb 04, 2013 05:57 AM
Nancy Laswick
United Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ
Your REALTOR® For The Valley Of The Sun

I saw the Mercedes commercial you're talking about. They're coming out with a new lower priced line of Mercedes so us average folk can own a Mercedes without selling our souls :-) This will be a disappointment for those agents who believe that the more expensive your car the more real estate you'll sell.

Feb 04, 2013 05:04 PM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Nancy: I like your comment- In Michigan, at least, there used to be a stereotype of sorts that Realtors drove Cadillacs.  I think over the years it's morphed into Lexuses, but you're right- there is a correlation between agents and luxury cars!  :)

Feb 04, 2013 10:43 PM
Ron Marshall
Marshall Enterprises - Saint Michael, MN
Birdhouse Builder Extraordinaire

Great analogy as usual, Andrew.  Good to see you back.

PS - My favorite commercial was the Chrysler farmer one, but this was a close second.

Feb 05, 2013 01:00 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Ron: Thank you!  I thought the Chrysler farmer ad was very moving, too.  They did a great job of marrying Paul Harvey's voice with the imagery- powerful stuff.

Feb 05, 2013 01:07 AM
Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

There were some great commercials, others not so much. The farmer ad was my favorite. This super bowl, sure did have a little of everything.

Feb 05, 2013 10:10 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Hi Joe: Yes, the Chrysler farmer ad was very well done.  Everyone in the Detroit region especially enjoyed Chrysler's Eminem commercials too, from a couple years ago.

Feb 05, 2013 11:24 PM
Suzanne McLaughlin
Sabinske & Associates, Inc. (Albertville, St. Michael) - Saint Michael, MN
Sabinske & Associates, Realtor

I am so glad to see you back.  And, the analogy is great.  You have such a talent for writing, Andrew.

Feb 06, 2013 04:48 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Suzanne:  Thank you!  As always, you are very kind!  :)

Feb 06, 2013 05:06 AM


Brother you are so right.  That commercial was garbage (at least the message).  In this world of instant gratification and 'ME' attitudes, I couldn't help but be drawn to the Chrysler ad featuring Paul Harvey.  I was even more pleased to see that my 10 and 13 yr old boys were equally drawn to Paul Harvey's inflection and paused to take in his message.  It's those little moments that keep me positive about their future.


oh yeah, how could I forget your Mercedes...in its brilliant UPS brown.  What did you call it?  The Ambassador?  It was great!!!

Feb 06, 2013 08:47 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Jeff: Yes, it was the Ambassador!  Definitely classier than the Hessian Aggressor!  :)  Thank you for chiming in, and I'm glad to hear about your boys.  Please call me- I'd love to hear from you! - Cap

Feb 06, 2013 09:54 AM
Yolanda Cordova-Gilbert
Richmond, TX


 I loved your blog and great analogy! I hope you are having a great day!

Feb 07, 2013 09:09 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Thank you, Yolanda!  I am, and I hope you are having a great day, too!  :)

Feb 07, 2013 09:09 PM
Joni Bailey
101 Main St. Realty - Huntsville, TX
Your Huntsville / Lake Livingston Area REALTOR®

Oh my gosh. I have got to subscribe to you.

My favorite commercial was the Dodge commercial. Whether they meant to or not, they clearly gave God the credit for creation of EVERYTHING from man to all that is on the earth. It was awesome. Kind of like the Dig Deeper challenge in January on ActiveRain. SO many of the posts gave God the Glory. I'm certain they were not expecting that. But hey, God was! ☺

Feb 12, 2013 01:50 AM
Andrew Capelli
Troy, MI

Joni: Thank you so much, both for the feedback and for subscribing!  The Dodge commercial was indeed powerful- There are very few advertisements from which millions of people can draw spiritual inspiration.

Feb 12, 2013 02:02 AM