The King is dead…, Long Live the King.

Well the 2009 elections are over, and while I only focused a little of my attention on those ads, the passing of election day marks a low tide mark in the off-year.  I’ll continue to post at least once a week, more if I see things of interest that I want to pass along.

Still, with 2009 in the rear view mirror, the 2010 elections are now in our sights along with the health care fight, and the probably climate bill coming up at the end of the year, so there will be political ads out there to discuss.

Take for example this ad from embattled Governor of New York, David Patterson:

Patterson also has another ad running. What I like about both ads is that they don’t pussyfoot around with Patterson’s situation. He’s made mistakes, he’s been heavily criticized, he’s unpopular right now — you can ignore those problems, try to dance around them with your advertising or face them, head on.  I prefer the later approach, which is why I like these ads.

First of all in this ad, “Some Say,” I find Patterson appealing, surprisingly quietly confident and well spoken.  Maybe he conveys these qualities all the time, but in my limited expose to him, I’ve never thought of him as such, more of a walking train wreck.  I appreciate how he tries to turn his negative (people say he shouldn’t run for governor) into a strength — strength of character, strength of leadership.

In that way, it reminds of me of the Inhofe spot I posted about, “One man in America.”

Secondly, it seems honest.  He’s not defensive or aggressively pushing back, just talking to voters calmly, humbly, but also with a strength that’s appealing.

The visual style reinforces this message, not too flashy, simple clean, not too flashy.  There’s a subtle push in to him at the end, it brings the viewer closer to the subject.  Underscoring the tone of the spot, it doesn’t draw attention to itself, but it’s effective in reinforcing the emotional subtext of the spot: Patterson’s not flashy, he’s about the people, he’s appealing, he’s not trying to fool you but speaking plainly and honestly.

I wonder if Patterson’ blindness is a benefit in this situation.  He can’t read the spot off a prompter like most politicians would be forced to do.  He’s had to memorize it (so it seems), and I think because of that fact, he delivers the lines instead of repeats or reads them.  I’ll be interested to see if he can continue to deliver lines like this in future ads, but it’s obvious I was impressed with his performance (and make no mistake, any time a politician is talking into the camera it’s a performance, to quote Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts…”)

The second spot is a narrator driven bio, but echoes the same themes, he’s made mistakes, he’s put the people first, strength of character, leadership.

With the echoes of Corzine’s loss in the Jersey governor’s race, I can’t help but wonder if he could have turned things around if he had taken a similar approach.  It’s bold to put a candidate with a negative approval rating in the front of your spot.  Think about those Dodd spots from this summer. The Senator barely appears in them.

I think the Dodd/Corzine approach adds to the siege mentality, it’s a losing frame of mind, a defensive approach, that tries to ignore the elephant in the room rather than make the elephant a positive (who wouldn’t want an elephant to clean up all the peanuts) or at least admit what everyone else knows (there’s an elephant here, I know I brought it into this room, and I’m going to do everything I can to get it out — anyone have a mouse).

Politics like sports can’t be played not to lose, you always have to play to win.  You never worry about how many outs you need, only how many you have.  Don’t worry about your negatives, worry how to turn those negatives into positives.

Patterson is obviously playing to win here. And while he has hurdles to overcome — bad economy, a potential popular primary opponent (Cuomo), a tough economy and dysfunctional legislature, he’s off to a good start with these ads.

If I was giving this ad a grade it would probably be a B+/A-.  A solid A for messaging (form) and a B for function, it’s not innovative, but its professional and effective.

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