Archive for August, 2009

Blast from the past

August 31, 2009

Wow (that’s not wow in a good way).

It’s almost like they wanted to replicate a negative ad circa 1996 with this one. It’s so heavy handed as to be laughable. That might have worked in the early days of negative ads, but today, it feels cliche and over the top. I find it hard to take seriously.

“But he prosecuted people, who did the same thing…” (My emphasis based on bad direction to the voice over talent.)

My wife said it seemed kinda sleazy.

I asked, “What Christie did?”

She answered, “No the ad.”

I agree, it’s just kinda sleazy and lame and there’s no subtly at all. Is it effective? I don’t know, Christie is increasingly being seen as a Republican crony, so the attack has some salience and drives home the message that is peculating out there. But, by going too far in it’s presentation, it risks making that message political rather than authentic.

It almost tastes real…

August 31, 2009

This ad is by the same folks who brought you this ad in Nebraska.

In my opinion it suffers from the same failings. It’s so close to being really good. They have some beautiful shots, the guy with his uniform, walking the corn fields, leaning on the tractor, some nice transitions too (hell, I even like the cricket sound effects), but they have the guy talking to camera and it just doesn’t work.

When regular people spout talking points it doesn’t work, let’s say it together now, it doesn’t work. I actually like the end when he asks to camera, “Senator Grassley, who’s side are you on?” That seems honest, if staged.

But for a saying his neighbors want a public option and Grassley has taken over $2 million from the big insurance industry, just doesn’t feel authentic — it makes the ad feel political. It’s like he’s stopped telling a story and started reading me a poll — one works, one doesn’t.

PERSONAL NOTE: My wife thought it wasn’t so bad. She thought the guy is better than most, certainly better than the guy in the Nebraska version. I’ll agree with her there, but it still feels like talking points, and not like he’s talking from the heart.

Real people not necessary

August 25, 2009

I got the chance to watch the movie “Up” a few weeks ago. It’s from Pixar animation –some of the best storytellers around.

The first 20 minutes minutes were an amazing example of visual storytelling, only a few lines of dialogue, and the damned thing had me in tears (either that or the theater was a little dusty). It was beautiful and moving.

Did it matter that it was a cartoon? That it wasn’t “real” people? Not one bit because the story is in our minds, we create the associations, we decide on the meaning through story.

Does this story seem any less moving because it’s animated?

Speaking of story & emotion, do you need the intro to this spot or is it just trying to do too much:

Stay tuned…

August 25, 2009

Sorry it’s been slow around here, between traveling for work, and being on the beach for two weeks, it’s been tough to find the energy to write about ads.

In addition, the ads I’ve seen haven’t really been any different from the crop before. A lot of health care, some gov ads, but nothing that grabs my attention (for better or worse).

Just for summer fun, here’s the second in the “United Breaks Guitars” series:

Too little too late?

August 13, 2009

If it wasn’t for Health Care, I wouldn’t have much to write about these days.

Looks like the pro-health care side is finally fighting back, trying to define what reform means for folks. That’s pretty important especially since the anti reform gang has the easier job of ginning up fear of change and the unknown.

The ad’s pretty simple, and it goes to my point in the previous post, sometimes it’s ok for the ad to get out of the way of the message.

That’s very much the case here. Of course, this ad has a $12 million buy behind it, which takes a simple ad pretty far. That’s a lot of repetition.

I have two questions: First, did this effort come too late. There’s been a lot of talk and debate, an ad like this should have come at the opening of the effort, not in the middle/end. Is it too late? Are people too set in their views?

Secondly, you’re spending $12 million on your buy, and you make a spot that looks like stock photos (which it probably is)? Look they chose good shots, but couldn’t you kick in $50k for a shoot, get some cool footage?

How much more effective would that $12 million be if they really tried to make an emotional connection as well.

When enough is enough…

August 12, 2009

Sometimes it’s enough to deliver a message.

You don’t want the ad to get in the way of the message.

I think this ad does a good job with that. It’s not innovative or particularly interesting, except in its simplicity. It doesn’t try too hard or give the usual negative political ad tricks (harsh music, “loud” graphics, a hard voice attacking, I even expected the backwards footage given it’s called “Backwards Bob,” and was pleasantly surprised not to get it). I think it’s better because it keeps it low key and matter of fact.

As an audience member I get the point, but I’m not hit over the head with it.

I also think it’s interesting because it’s a one minute ad on choice — when was the last time you saw that? Of course Virginia has an interesting history of choice and governor’s races.

In a political campaign, sometimes you need cavalry riding to the rescue, sometimes you need infantry in the form a solid message delivery.

I hate it when they’re right

August 7, 2009

Sometimes it’s hard for me to separate the message from the messenger. It may be hard to tell, but I actually care about the issues above and beyond the execution. I consider myself a progressive, I actually want Health Care to pass, for example.

So sometimes it’s hard for me to see value in the ads the other side puts up. Often it’s because they stink, are just too harsh or too mean. Sometimes it’s because the message goes against my values and principles. I try to separate the form from the function, but I’m only human.

This ad from the National Republican Trust Pac is pretty good, I think. At least it’s different from the usual fear-spreading, bomb-lobbing ads we see from the right.

It’s a minute long, the beginning is something closer to a David Lynch movie than a political ad — in other words, it’s abstract and different. There’s no v/o for those first thirty seconds, it gets my attention and stresses me out, which is what it’s supposed to do.

The whistle sound effect half way through is a little off-putting or feels out of context somehow. But when the voice over starts, I think it’s well written, “Stop, time-out, there is no more money…. Let’s take a breath, fix our economy first.” I think that sentiment is actually a pretty compelling message, and gets the right away from accusations that killing health care is politically motivated.

One advantage to a :60 spot is that you can divide things up like that. This is almost two spots in one, the abstract images creating anxiety and the calm voice telling us to slow down, reassuring us but cautioning us too.

If the right can successfully adopt this message around health care, then I worry about its chances of passing. I hate it when they get it right.

Truth, Justice, and Viral Videos

August 6, 2009

I haven’t posted in the past week. I know. It’s because I’m on vacation (which I will be)… or too busy (which I’m not)… it’s really something much more simple: there’s really a dearth of interesting videos this past week. The August slump.

Yeah, you got your Corizne Attack ad. I have to ask, is George Bush still a relevant attack? My eyes kinda glazed over, but I did like the clapping sound.

In a rarity, you even have a Corzine positive delivered by President Obama.

I thought I’d get outside the political realm today to show this video:

4,698,344. That’s how many views the video has (maybe 20 from me).

20,465. That’s how many comments have been generate.

30. That’s the number of says this video has been posted.

4 million hits in 30 days — are you kidding me?!

It got me thinking, why? Sure the song is catchy, but 4 million hits catchy? The #1 song on itunes (Black Eyed Peas, “I gotta feeling” has 6 million + hits in two months).

Here’s my best guess.  I think it comes down to a good story, well told. The song tells a great simple story: “United Breaks Guitars.” It tells that story in a funny way that dramatizes it without taking itself too seriously. It’s not visually compelling, but it is emotionally compelling.

A favorite phrase of mine these days is “the process is the message.” That’s true here, the story that the song tells is one piece of the story, but the story of the guy who wrote the song and why he wrote it becomes an additional piece of the story. It’s powerful, it’s authentic.

It taps into folks angst about airlines, indifferent employees, bad service, indifferent employees (oh, did I say that already? I really hate indifferent employees).

It’s bigger than one broken guitar, it’s Don Quixote tilting at corporate windmills, David versus Goliath. There’s a mythic element that should not be ignored.

The story is also very well executed. Imagine the same story, except this time, the singer is on camera, telling his story to camera without the song and funny video. How would that work? Can’t imagine it would get near the same response.

The video, while low-budget by ad standards, doesn’t try to do too much, is funny and clever (love the CSI scene). It was a simple concept; my guess is it still cost $5k – $12k to produce (that’s not including the cost of original music production), maybe less. It matches the sharp lyrics in tone and its tongue-in-cheek quality.

The real question: Could you replicate this? Maybe, but not by trying to replicate it. The next song “American breaks laptops” or some such will feel cheap and like a knock off.

But I think the lesson is an authentic story that’s told in an interesting way can break through to folks, especially if they’re ready to believe the message. And you don’t need a million dollar ad buy to do it.

Take that, Jon Corzine.


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