Archive for October, 2009

It is a scorpion after all.

October 29, 2009

Have you ever heard the story of the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion wants to cross a creek so asks a frog for help.  The frog protests, “You’re a scorpion, you’re going to sting me.” The scorpion replies, “Why would I do that, if I sting you we both die?  If you take me I’ll owe you a favor.”  The frog thinks it over and decides it’s not the worst thing to have scorpion owe him a favor so he tell the scorpion to hop on, and they start making their way across the creek.

About half way across, the scorpion stings the frog.  The frog is clearly shocked and angry at the betrayal can only ask, “Why? Now we’ll both die….” The scorpion says, “What can I say, I am a scorpion after all….”

I couldn’t help thinking of that story watching this ad and feeling vaguely disappointed, then wondering why?  This is the same type of ad that Daggett ran the first time why should I expect something different from his team just because the nature of the race has changed — he received the Star-Ledger endorsement, Christie has fallen like a rock, Daggett has risen in some polls, and the two main party candidates have generally thrown enough mud at each other that voters aren’t particularly excited about the election. Oh, that’s why…, huh.

What’s wrong with the ad in my opinion?  (I may be repeating myself from post about Daggett’s first ad, but what the hell.) Well, again the production values stink.  If you’re going to do something like this do it right, this looks cheap and to voters will feel like a third party candidate ad, not the ad of a real player prepared to pull the upset.

The guy playing Christie is pretty good, but the Corzine look alike is pretty bad.  Every time he says his lines you can see the gears moving in his head, not a good way to describe an actor working.  It would have been better to find someone who looks less like Corzine and is a better actor. And frankly, Daggett isn’t compelling enough either in his interactions with the look-alikes or to camera to make this work.

It’s not all bad, the ad is cute, the “You don’t spend it,” line has some legs to it I think, and could get remembered.  The end message is right where it needs to be, “It’s never wrong to stand up for the right person,” as fears grow that voters will abandon Daggett to vote for a “real” candidate, not some long shot with no chance of winning.

And maybe that’s the thing, this ad does nothing else to make me think Daggett has a chance to win.  It’s not professional enough to give him credibility, it’s not serious enough to make him appear serious, it’s not funny or clever enough to really be memorable, and it just doesn’t feel authentic to who Chris Daggett is, this feels like a costume he put on for Halloween (there’s my requisite Halloween reference)

On top of it all, the spot doesn’t tout his endorsement, which in my mind is a great validator for him, gives him real credibility, the biggest paper in the state thought enough of him to endorse him, why shouldn’t you? Do they think people know about it? That it doesn’t matter or they didn’t want to cut the cutesy intro to the ad to insert a message point of real substance?

Harsh I know.  I was tell a friend that if I lived in Jersey, I don’t know who I would vote for, I want to be compelled by Daggett, but this doesn’t do it.  I guess that’s why I can’t help felling like that damned frog, “Why?…”

Well, we all know the answer.

Heather Graham & Health Care.

October 23, 2009

I was on a plane today, and I watched the movie “The Hangover.” It was pretty good, amusing enough to keep me distracted (and who doesn’t like a good tiger in a car routine).  It’s a good cast, and I was impressed with Heather Graham in a bit part.  It reminded me what I liked about her so many years ago in the brilliant “Boogie Nights.” (Thinking of that movie, PT Anderson must be a great director, Graham, Burt Reynolds, Mark Wallberg & Julianne Moore all gave the best performances of their careers.)

I don’t know if Graham is a good actress, but she has a strong quality: She’s innocent and sexy, charming and quirky.

When I landed I saw this new Move ad staring… Heather Graham.  Ha sweet coincidence.

Unlike the American’s United for Healthcare which compared the health care industry with baseball, and ultimately didn’t make any sense, this ad actually makes the point quite well.  It doesn’t need to mention the legal restrictions to competition either.

Using Heather Graham is a bit of a MacGuffin in that it ultimately isn’t important who represents the public option, but it sure ads attention.

My only gripe with the ad would be the bibs on the front of each of the actors to represent who they’re supposed to be.  It works, but it’s not the most elegant solution, also it’s not shot as well as it could have been.  The closeup of the dropped burger is nice, but I wanted more.

Still, that’s an artistic quibble. As a message delivery device, this ad is very effective.

A little more clear

October 15, 2009

So it turns out that insurance companies like Major League Baseball are exempt from anti-trust laws.  Huh.

That wasn’t clear at all from the recent health care ad hitting insurance companies for fearing competition.

Read this article at for more background.

So not only do health insurance companies fear competition, they’re exempt from it by law.  That’s a pretty compelling argument for a public option if you ask me, too bad the ad trying to explain it was so muddled.

Here’s an example…

October 13, 2009

I was trying to think of a funny ad, that exemplified my point about tone.  While making lunch I remembered this ad from Ned Lamont, who ran against Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic primary.

Ned Lamont has a messy desk…  What makes this ad work is that it takes itself seriously, overly so, but seriously nonetheless. It sounds and looks like a classic attack ad, but the contrast of the absurdity of the claims with the seriousness of tone make it funny.

Take a look at this scene from a classic “I Love Lucy.”

Lucille Ball doesn’t play the humor of the moment, she plays the reality of it.  What do you do when the conveyor belt goes too fast?  It’s funny because it’s played straight, when you play for laughs, you often don’t get them.


October 13, 2009

I just finished writing about Daggett and his need to change the tone of his ads, and I saw a new health care ad this morning, and thought it was a good opportunity to write more generally about tone.

Maybe I should start with I read about this ad this morning first.  From the National Journal’s Morning Wake-up e-mail: “Americans United for Change is up with a TV ad on DC cable, arguing insurance execs. “are scared of competition…”  Wow, I thought that sounds like a good message, scared of competition, that could work.

Then I watched the ad:

Um, uh.  That’s disappointing, right?  I tried to think about why it was so disappointing and it comes down to tone.

Baseball and insurance companies? Huh?  Maybe the makers of the ad thought they’d hook me with a curious question, instead, it only seemed to minimize their story. Baseball, why are we dragging baseball into this?  It’s confusing and dumb.  It’s too cute and not funny enough to be funny.    The Blacksox scandal? What are they talking about.  And the images?  Sigh….

They have a real message to drive home here, insurance companies are scared of competition from the government. Why are they so scared?  If they’re doing such a great job (and the government is going to do such a crappy job so goes their allies comments), why should they care about a public option?  They should mop the floor with those guys.

Tone is such a subtle thing it helps us to frame the story the ad is trying to tell.  It’s something viewers pick up on from the sound of the narrator, the music, the images, it’s implied rather then spoken.  The baseball music, the flat images don’t imply the seriousness of the message.  Now you can contrast the tone with the message (also called being ironic), a serious message can be delivered in a comedic tone and when done well, it can be very effective.  But being funny is hard, just ask Steve Martin, it takes work.

Someone thought this was a good idea, but to me it looks like an ad that never worked on the script, and if it doesn’t work on the page, it’s unlikely it’ll work on the screen.

Like Chris Daggett, who I talked about earlier, it’s a good message ruined by the poor choice of tone.

P.S. I apologize for any grammatical errors, my copy editor (my wife) is away for a couple weeks.  Have I ever mentioned that I had to take remedial English in both High School and College?

Now what?

October 13, 2009

Today’s New Jersey Star Ledger’s endorsement of independent Chris Daggett for Governor reminds me a bit of the end of the movie “The Candidate” (confession: I’ve never seen the whole movie just the end).  After Robert Redford’s challenger unexpectedly wins the election, he turns to his campaign manager and says, “Now what.” (Or something like that, I couldn’t find the clip on Youtube)

With Corzine and Christie continually pounding each other, there is an opening for a candidate like Daggett who has taken serious positions on the issue — especially as a good friend of mine says the issue people want addressed, property taxes.

I took a look at his first (and only ad) in this post, and I made the comment that the silly nature of the ad and the poor production values didn’t present him as a legitimate serious candidate.  Now that he has the endorsement of a (the) major paper in the state, he’s a serious candidate.  How does he present himself in his ads?

You can still do an interesting yet serious ad, it doesn’t have to be the boring ads we’ve seen from Corzine or Christie, but it can’t come off as silly or he risks framing himself as the only the gadfly in the race and not a serious contender.

This and that…

October 1, 2009

Been busy couple of weeks, work travel and my son’s six year old birthday. I’ve kept an eye out for interesting stuff, but frankly, it feels like the dog days of ads — both political and general. A lot more health care ads, nothing I or you haven’t seen before. Don’t know if I can catch another Corzine or Christie ad, can’t imagine how the people of New Jersey feel.

Saw a good Napa Auto Parts commercial with a guy tailgating, but I can’t seem to find a copy online.

Saw “Inglorious Basterds” which is brilliant and might be my favorite Tarrantino film, yes better than “Pulp Fiction.” The movie opens with 20 minutes of talking, just talking, and it’s absolutely riveting.

I’ll end this post with a link to the official White House Flickr feed.  Inspiration comes in all forms, and you don’t have to be an Obama fan to appreciate the artistry in some of the photos.  In fact, I’ve used them as examples in a couple of storyboards already.  Some pretty amazing stuff there.

And just to prove my point, here’s a commercial for Senator Inhofe. 

Now I’d never vote for the guy, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking this ad is brilliant.  Iconic images, but what really sets it apart is the fact that it’s so authentic — it doesn’t try to run away from a “negative” image, but actually turns those qualities around as positives.

Inspiration is where you find it.

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