Archive for January, 2010

Ok not so fast

January 22, 2010

In my research for my last post, I came across a Scott Brown ad and a Martha Coakley ad, and I just fel the contrast was too great for me to ignore.

It’s not a matter of the issues they discussed, though I the Brown ad I remember (despite my bias against the Republican) and the Coakley ad, well I have no idea what she said, I had to watch it again to get the point.  A big part of that is connection and emotion. Watch those two ads who do you connect with?  Who is more authentic?

I’m not saying Coakley has to be charismatic or exciting, but she needs to come off as real, like she’s not just reading a script, like she cares at least. But that’s how I feel watching the ad, like she’s just reading a script, like she’s going through the motions.  She may be  great at her job but not so great at reading to camera, then why is she reading to camera?

The great manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Earl Weaver said something like, “Good managers put players in roles they can succeed in.”  Well, a consultant should put their politicians in roles they can look good in, roles in which they can connect with voters.  Brown does that in spades.  I disagree with him, and still find his ad compelling.

I’m not saying national trends don’t matter, or if health care was more popular the result would have been different (for a great analysis read Nate Silver’s breakdown), but what I am saying is that the ads matter.  Watching only two ads it’s clear that Scott Brown connected with voters, that he came across as authentic and real, and Martha Coakley lack those qualities, and that as much as anything is why she lost.

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Moving on…

January 22, 2010

I suppose there are a lot of things I could be talking about today.  I was going to look at all the Scott Brown ads and all the Martha Coakley ads and do my campaign post-mortem that way, but I’m jet lagged and cold, so that plan went out the window.  There are a lot of things I could say about  the MA Senate race, it’s result, and the aftermath, but none of them are particularly germane to this point of this blog, so it’s time to move on.

Two ads from Kay Bailey Hutchinson who’s running for Governor of Texas:

Maybe this is a Texas issue — meaning maybe it resonates with Texans, it kinda falls flat on my Yankee ears.  But the first ad is actually a clever way of presenting the message, flat or not.  The sound design is nicely done too, as some of those images are actually stills, but the sounds make you feel the motion of the cars.  I like this style of presentation, I’m not really sure what it’s called, but it’s interesting and gets your attention.  You get the point even if you think it’s ridiculous.

The second ad is the same message, but it’s just more blah, blah, blah. And while I try not to be too partisan on the site, the image at the end with Hutchinson & Cheney, the guy really looks all hunched over and troll like than ever.

Massachusetts Senate

January 15, 2010

I’ve avoided talking about the Massachusetts senate race mostly because the ads have been pretty boring or at least not very interesting.  This week has been slow, and I’ve been desperately trying to find something to write about, so I resolved to look over the ads in what seems to be a tightening race.

I was surprised to find this one:

It’s short on issues (“someone who’s going to lower your taxes”) and long on character and personality.  Interesting choice given how late in the campaign it is.  Usually you’re hammering your opponent or giving voters a laundry list of reasons to vote for you, of both.

I like this spot, and I think it’s effective, though I’m not working on this race, and I can’t prove it.  If my only exposure to Scott Brown was from this ad, I’d like him, think he’s a local, he seems to get it, he seems like a real person.

When I watch the Martha Coakley ads I don’t get that sense — she feels so polished, like a typical politician.

Watch her most recent positive ad which features Senator Kenndy’s widow:

Other than the emotional value of Vicki Kennedy, the ad is about as flat and dull as can be.

With all the media rushing to make national trends, it’s easy to forget that campaigns matter and the ads you put on the air matter.

If I were looking just at these ads, I’d vote for Scott Brown too.

Hotdogs, Apple Pie & Farouk?

January 7, 2010

A friend of mine created this ad.  I really love the opening, I’m a sucker for iconic images and Americana.  I think it’s also an interesting approach to the essential problem of this campaign: How do you run a man named Farouk Shami for governor in Texas?

I wonder if they could go the entire ad without mentioning his name? Maybe only mention it at the end? I wanted to post this ad in the wake of the Domino’s ad because I think (and I’ve told my friend as much) that while this is a great opening ad, at some point you’re going to have to address the big issue, no not that he’s a Democrat running in Texas, but his name, Farouk Shami.  If his name was Luis Gonzalez, he’d have an uphill fight even in Texas, but at least he’s be playing in the right sand box, but Farouk Shami in Texas of all places? That a pretty big hurdle to overcome.  If there’s an elephant in the room, my opinion is that you have to address it head on at some point.

It’s a good ad, and a compelling message, but I wonder in the end if it’s all just window dressing?  It’s also a good reminder that while I’m showing ads usually one at a time, especially in politics they’re often part of a campaign, and each ad should build on the last, to create a larger story or reinforce elements of the story the campaign is trying to tell.  We’ll see where this one goes.

It’s cute

January 6, 2010

I remember in college, women hated to be called cute.  Cute is alright, cute  is non-threatening, cute is mildly interesting, but it’s not as good as hot or beautiful or gorgeous.

Here’s a pretty cute ad summarizing the benefits of the recent health care bill. It’s  better than a straight forward list, but not really as compelling as it could be.

The message is the same in this ad, but it can’t quite even meet the cute bar.  It’s kinda confusing, the entire time I kept wondering why we were watching a marathon.  I like when images counterpoint the words or graphics, but this was just distracting.  It’s a really long thirty seconds to get to the payoff of the finish-line message. Never a good sign when you have to explain the metaphor to folks.

When there’s an elephant in the room…

January 5, 2010

Wow.  When was the last time you saw a company rag on their own product or at the very least pass along consumer’s negative comments about their own products.  Now you’ve got my attention.

Sometimes you have to admit the problem.  There’s no running from it.  A few months ago, I saw a Wall Street Journal article about Wal-Mart.  For years, Wal-Mart tried to defend it’s image from attacks, they tried to gloss it over, they pretended they were different.  Then the CEO did the unthinkable, he “stopped defending the company’s practices and started changing them.” (WSJ July 16, 2009)  It seems obvious, but so often it’s not.  It’s hard to hear criticism, especially when that criticism is public.  Authenticity is hard.

This is the trailer for a 4 minute video, that I would encourage you to watch (there’s a :30 commercial out there, but I couldn’t find it on youtube).  It’s stilted in places, but overall it’s well done, and get’s me interested in a brand I had little or no interest in before.   Dominos goes from a faceless company in the business of delivery, to a company with personality and people who care in the business of making good pizza.  That’s a pretty good shift even from a four minute video.

I grew up in New York City, and I’m a pizza snob, and I’m interested in trying the new Domino’s pizza because of this commercial.

Spin can only get you so far, excuses usually sound like excuses.  At a certain point you have to come clean and state what everyone knows, it shows you’re human, maybe more important it’s authentic and real, and it captures people’s attention because it’s so damned rare and unexpected.

What’s the point?

January 5, 2010

With the New Year upon us, I wanted to step back for a moment to talk about what the point of this blog is, it’s mission for lack of a better word.  I was trying to describe to a friend what the blog was about in the context of my best spots of the decade posts, and he got confused, “Wait, isn’t your blog about political ads?” I started to protest, to explain, and then I thought, it is isn’t it.

I was having a conversation with a very talented young person, who has chosen to listen to my career advice, talking about political ads, and she wondered why can’t political ads be the same quality as Madison avenue produced ads. That’s kinda my point, why should political ads be treated like the poor relations to Madison Avenue’s Wicked Step Sisters?  There’s not reason except desire and effort that we can’t raise the bar on political advertising, yes the budgets are lower,  the deadlines are tighter, and the campaigns more intense than general advertising, but those are mitigating factors not barriers to entry.

I selected a list of the best general ads of the decade for a couple of reasons, one practical, the other more big picture: Practically, it was hard to find and compile a list of my favorite political ads of the decade.  The ones I can remember weren’t always available on youtube or in another place I could point you to.  Big picture, the ads I selected represent the kind of work I admire, the kind of work that inspires me, the kind of work that we should be creating in political media.  I point to general advertising for themes, techniques, styles that we can incorporate into political ad making.

The fact is most of political media these days is pretty bland.  I try to point to examples of work I admire in this realm as well as work I think represents the worst of it, the fact is there’s just a lot less political media, and a lot less exemplary work to point to.

So to answer the question in the title of this post, what’s the point: my mission here is to raise the art of political media and ad making.


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