Archive for March, 2010

Dueling ads in… Nevada

March 31, 2010

I like these dueling ad posts.  As campaign season gets into full gear, there might be more of these to come.

Moving from Arkansas to Nevada, where there’s a Republican primary to see who will replace, err,… I mean who will go up against Harry Reid in the fall.  We’ll go bio a bio:

First up is Sue Lowden who’s way up in the polls:

I find her likable enough, though a little phony — it is just me?  Not sure what the swishes are doing in there, it’s one of those elements you put into an ad because you can, but I’m not sure it’s helping with the message, also I think they’re distracting me.

There’s a film school adage, if you see the boom mic in the shot, it doesn’t matter.  What that means, is if people are noticing things like the boom mic coming ever so slightly into the shot, it means they’re bored and they’re not connected with what’s happening on screen.  That’s what’s happening here, the spot is alright, I like the opening archival shots, it’s evocative — the immigrant story of coming to America to follow your dreams, that’s good stuff (ironic isn’t it how the story of immigrant is so powerful in retrospect, given the current state of immigration reform).

I just can’t quite connect with her, the smile feels forced or something.  Also, I’m not from Nevada, but the backdrop of that room looks pretty plush. A good backdrop for a political spot is something that’s both unique and generic at the same time.  Something that isn’t too nice, this feels a little too nice to me.

Here’s is her opponent’s spot:

I really like the effect they use pulling out the photos from background.  It ads something interesting for my eye.  Also I like the archival stuff of him, for whatever reason, images like that are always powerful to me, maybe because they feel so real.

I torn about the understated CG’s for the bio section.  I like them, they’re simple and clean, but are they adding anything by simply repeating what we’re hearing?  Why couldn’t they add some piece of new information?  It’s a constant struggle with CG’s in a political ad, what is they’re purpose?  On one hand people think they should reinforce the voice over, like a powerpoint slide or something.  I think they should reinforce the feeling you’re going for, what if they used words or ideas that weren’t already in the voice track, what if those powerful words like values or family where replaced in the track, but left that for the CG’s to describe, that could be a power reinforcing of the theme and feeling of the ad.

I leave this ad feeling like I don’t really know this guy.  Here’s what I remember, he grew up in rural Nevada and was a businessman, he has a family… There’s nothing that grabs me or my emotions, and it doesn’t make me necessarily curious to find out more.

Sue’s ad, I remember she was a business person, her job is your job or something like that, she had some event with a mayor where she stood up to the guy or something, I’d like to know more about that.

In general both these spots are good enough, have some interesting elements, but are a little generic and don’t grab me.  That’s especially important for Chachas ’cause he’s at like 1% in the polls.  It’ll be tough at this point no matter how much he spends to get traction unless his ads stick out a little more.

Not an ad

March 24, 2010

I wanted to take a moment from ads to link to this memo from David Mamet to the writers of the show “The Unit.”

Even though he’s talking about drama, I think there is a lesson for all ad makers and particularly political ad makers, namely: “THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNEIN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.” (his caps)

Now replace drama with emotion or connection, and I think you see where I’m heading.  The audience will not watch a commercial for information.  Look at that Reid ad from the last post compare it to the Lincoln ad, you think anyone was tune in for the information?

Another good lesson is this: “IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER.”

This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way (trust me).  If an idea doesn’t work on the page, it won’t work when you film it, and it won’t suddenly work when edit it together.  I wish it would, but it doesn’t.  I think that’s actually the problem with the Halter ads, they don’t quite work, and that starts with the script.

Mamet closes the memo with: “I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE SCENE AND ASK YOURSELF “IS ITDRAMATIC? IS IT ESSENTIAL? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?”

I might change that to, “Look at your :30 script and ask yourself, ‘is it emotional?’ Does it connect? Does it advance the message?”

That’s as good advice as I could give about political ads.

More dueling ads in Arkansas

March 24, 2010

Long delay from blogging, sorry and thanks for sticking around.  Travel and real work keeping me from writing, but it’s time to focus now.  Bunch of health care ads coming up trying to frame the post debate debate.  I’ll try to look at those tomorrow.  In the meantime, back to Arkansas:

This is a beautiful ad.  I love the shots from the house to the silhouettes, to the details, to the shots of Lincoln in the committee room, really tight work.  The shots are so evocative, but I find them fighting with the script. The script is really a meat and potatoes script about being a committee chairperson and the power that brings to Arkansas.  I’ve never been sure if that line of reasoning (your incumbent has a lot of power) works.  It probably polls well, but I wonder if it’s too rational an argument to make. It almost feels like a bribe to me.  

In any case, while I’m not sure the imagery works with the transactional message, it’s a whole lot better than this Harry Reid ad which makes a similar argument to Nevada voters:

Compared to this Reid ad, the Lincoln ad feels like a ball of emotion.  The Reid ad is your standard political “good enough” ad, but it does nothing to connect.  Lincoln at least tries to connect by using the surrogate of the farmer to talk about her power, she tried to make it personal.  If you’re going to make an ad along the lines of the powerful incumbent, the Lincoln ad is about as good as you can get.

Two ads from primary challenger Bill Halter:

I just don’t get the coach ad.  It feels hokey and not serious enough to make Halter serious, but not really funny enough to be amusing.  

Dueling ads in Arkansas

March 8, 2010

First the incumbent:

Then the primary challenger:

What’s interesting about these ads is how close they are in tone.  Both are quirky, off beat ways of giving voters some information about the candidates.  I don’t review a lot of cookie cutter ads on this blog, not because there aren’t a lot of them to review, but precisely because there are so many of them and frankly they bore me.

These ads don’t bore me, but I’m torn about them.  I put off writing about them because I’m not sure exactly how I feel about them.  These ads are not cookie cutter, they are different.  I appreciate that, but I can’t help feel that they’re lacking something, but I’m not sure what it is….

Maybe it’s this: I don’t connect with either Bill Halter or Senator Lincoln.  The ads leave me cold. The tone is funny, but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate, they dont’ feel authentic.  What I mean in this case is neither ad feels true to Halter or Lincoln, somehow I don’t get them in the ads.

It’s like the candidates are props in their own ads, you could switch the candidates, and the ads would be pretty much the same.  I feel like both ads are out of sync with themselves, discussing serious/tough issues in a light way, they just aren’t able to pull it together in the end.

Overall, I don’t love either of these ads, though I feel like I should.  I do however appreciate the effort to try and be different because here’s the thing, if you take a chance sometimes you’re going to miss.  (These ads don’t miss that badly, but I think they do miss the mark). That’s one primary reason folks don’t want to take a chance because people piss all over them if they miss the mark.  It’s hard to criticize if you go by the book, if you make a boring ad that looks the same as everything else, but is good enough — no one is going to attack you for that, even if it isn’t effective.

Still, these ads aren’t bad, and I think trying for something and failing gets you at least as far as not trying at all.

Amazing what you can do with a little creativity

March 1, 2010

Sometimes I get down writing this blog.  I feel like all I’m doing is criticizing the crap that passes for commercials, political or otherwise. I really look forward to the days I get to praise a commercial because that’s why I really write this blog to find ads that are praise worthy that can stand as examples of the best of commercials.

A friend sent me this PSA for Sussex safer roads, “Embrace Life.”  I talk a lot about making an emotional argument, that facts aren’t as important as connection, that your visuals should tell a story.  This spot has all those elements.  It’s visually interesting, keeps you guessing at what’s going on, well executed, and emotionally powerful.

The image of the wife and little girl clasping their hands around the dad is striking and moving — it stays with you, and works as a powerful metaphor for what a seatbelt represents.

The real emotion you feel watching helps ground the spot and counters the surreal conceit of the spot.  You don’t dwell on the strangeness of the situation (why is he driving in his living room, that’s not real), you’re able to suspend disbelief and go along with the premise because it’s compelling emotionally and there’s enough velocity to take you through to the end.

And another thing, the spot doesn’t feel preachy.  Often times spots like this can feel holier than thou, trying to make you feel guilty or shamed for your bad behavior. That will almost never work, it’ll just box folks into a corner.  This ad goes another way.  It doesn’t argue facts with facts or stab with guilt, it tells a story with emotions to try and connect to the viewer.  People who don’t wear seat belts will give you a a rational rationale for their behavior, and if you try to talk to them about the merits of their argument, they’ll gladly argue, but you wont change their opinion with facts.

Feelings come first, facts, rationales, reasons come second to explain our feelings — change the feeling, and you don’t need facts, people will seek them out to rationalize their new feeling.


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