Archive for April, 2010

We interrupt our regularly schedule programing…

April 28, 2010

I was going to post about this ad from Pete Domenici, Jr.

This ad is a prime example of teleprompter gone bad, I swear you can see him squinting to read from the prompter.  The long and the short of it is, if you’re running for governor your ads have to have enough gravitas for the office (especially if you have a famous last name).  Now there are exceptions to that rule, but those exceptions must portray the candidate as viable and be authentic.  This is almost a bad parody of a political ad.

This is the ad that bumped the teleprompter gone bad series:

As tough as it is, I’m going to leave the controversial issue of English only aside.  This is going to sound scary, but I think this is a pretty effective ad.  There’s one too many close up shots of Tim James walking towards the camera, but other than that, I can see this ad connecting with a lot of people.  My old film school teacher Boris used to say, “Guys, close up is mystery.”  Here the close up creates a connection, and I think the mystery is that you can read into Tim James the qualities you want.

I appreciate the close-up only because it indicates that the director made a choice.  It would have been easy (and safer) to shoot this wide, then go close, then wide, standard stuff.  The fact that they stayed close and had James walking tells me that they were thinking about it, as opposed to doing the same old.  I appreciate that kind of thoughtfulness.

I think Tim James himself does a great job of delivering the message. Again, politics aside, he’s believable and tough, but he also he comes across as strong and not an asshole or some hair on fire radical (again, politics aside).  That’s a tough act to accomplish when you’re talking about English only.

I find the ending particularly compelling. While the pause (or “beat”) may be slightly longer than I would have liked, I think it’s effective, “Maybe it’s the businessman in me, but we’ll save money and it makes sense…*beat*… Does it to you?” I think that pause, the line helps to draw the audience in, gives them time to engage with the argument, and makes James seem even more reasonable, he’s asking what I think —  wow he must really care.  The soft ending helps defuse the hard message. If tea party politicians start figuring out how to put a candy coating on their message it could be a real big problem for progressives.

My partner (the Rabin part of Rabin Strasberg) reminded me of the similarly themed Buchanan for President ad “Meatball”:

The ad is similar in that it takes the same inflammatory issue and deal with it in a soft way — in this case humor.  This ad is also a good example of a gimmick that actually works. It’s memorable  and on message. Of course, the argument didn’t take Buchanan very far in 2000, I’m curious how it’ll work for Tim James.

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Political Aikido

April 26, 2010

The wikipedia says this about Aikido: “Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on.”

This new ad from Alexi Giannoulias is a pretty good example of political Aikido — framing the failure of the “family business” (the federal takeover of the family bank he used to run) as another business lost to this bad economy is pretty smart in my opinion.  For whatever reason, I was thinking about this campaign over the weekend and the need to talk about the elephant in the room.  I think this spot does a pretty good job of just that.  I like that he’s being interviewed (or appears to be talking to an interviewer) and not reading of a teleprompter.  He seems sincere and believable.

It comes a little short of where I would go and really confronting the issue, but I think it’s about as good as you could do given the circumstances.  As Ben Smith of Politico says, “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history…”

The negative attack in the middle of the ad is interesting, pretty standard stuff, but in essence he’s tying Kirk to the failure of his “family business” and businesses like it around the state.  Of course, if you read the cite from the unemployment quote it’s from 2008. I think it’s pretty misleading because they’re obviously trying to make it sound like Kirk made that statement recently when in fact he made the statement (whatever he actually said) about three months before the financial meltdown.  That kind of inaccuracy always worries me because if it becomes the story around the ad, then it’s much easier for the other side to throw out the entire attack, and it casts doubts about your campaign’s credibility.

I’m interested to see if they can shift the story in the coming days or not, but you got to give it a try, and at the very least they’ve put the ball in Kirk’s court to react to.

The Limits of Advertising

April 23, 2010

With all the political ads out there these days, I’m trying to avoid talking about commercial advertising.  But this ad from AT&T caught my attention:

It’s a great execution, from the animated kids drawing to the iconic Gene Wilder song from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

It hooked me emotionally and engaged my curiosity — what is this ad for?

Needless to say, I was disappointed when it was revealed that it was part of AT&T’s “rethink possible” campaign.  Sigh.  Advertising can and does change opinions, but it can only do that if people have a sense that what you’re saying in the ad is true.  If it connects to what they believe is authentic.

There was a great article about Wal-Mart from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that talked about Walmart’s efforts to reform its image.  At first Walmart tried tricks and gimmicks, in essence defending itself, positive blog buzz and PR efforts.  But those efforts fell flat or blew up in their face.  Then the CEO had an epiphany: “If we want to reform our image, we need to change the way we do things.”  That’s when Walmart started forming alliances with labor to support health care reform, started pushing more environmentally friendly standards in its supply chain and stores, started cleaning up their act with regards to their labor practices.  They changed the story by changing their actions.

Advertising can help people realize your story has changed (or is changing), think of the Dominos Pizza ad or the GM ad that I reviewed a while back.  THey were announcements that those companies were changing direction.  This ad by AT&T is more akin to the Toyota apology ad.  As moving as it is, as well executed as it is, it doesn’t change my opinion of AT&T.  If AT&T wants me to re-think the possible, tell me your rethinking your network, rethinking your customer service, rethinking whatever you’re changing, tell me how you’re rethinking the possible.  Then an ad like this might be effective down the road after the story has started to change to reinforce that new perspective.

There’s a maxim in marketing that a logo is not a brand.  Well just saying the words doesn’t change reality, coming up with a nifty new slogan and ad campaign doesn’t make me think AT&T’s network is any better when my iPhone is still dropping calls left and right.  Change has to start from a place of truth and authenticity, there are limits to what ads can do.

I have no response to that.

April 22, 2010

Wow, that sucks.  Want more?  Ok, it’s confusing. I know I’m not the target audience, but I think the ad doesn’t make the case either rationally or emotionally.  I can see the idea of using Paul Revere — patriotism, Tea Party, roots of liberty, I get it, it just doesn’t work at all.

Favorite Senate Candidate of 2010 (April Edition)

April 21, 2010

Cal Cunningham might be my new favorite candidate for congress.

So far he’s 2 for 2 in my book, with another strong ad.  I like the beginning with all the CG’s incorporated into the buildings.  I like how he becomes a part of his website, and I especially like the end tag: “I approve this message because North Carolina is where we fight back.”

It’s interesting (and effective) because he’s taking the other side’s rhetoric and making it his own.  I think it’s also effective because it’s vague enough that it let’s people read their own subtext into that.  It could be “fight back” against the government, “fight back” against Wall Street, “fight back” against Republicans.  I think Cunningham also sells this spot, he’s pretty good reading to camera.

My one criticism of the spot is that it’s very issues heavy,  I lose some of Cunningham in that section — I lose my connection to him.

Still, this is a very nicely done spot.

There’s over the top and then there’s over the top

April 15, 2010

Tax day is here.  A day when conservatives can rail against paying their hard earned money to the government for wasteful programs like public schools, roads, a military, police and fire departments.

In honor of April 15th, a conservative group railing against taxes.  Now Ken Buck is in a Republican primary against conservative Jane Norton. So maybe this spot is aimed for a very angry conservative base, still I can’t help but feel they could have appealed to that base, and to more independent/less angry Republican primary voters. From the graphics to the music to the voice talent to the writing (“Washington loves Tax Day, but despise conservative leaders….).  It’s just too much, and it risks getting

Compare that spot with this web video, which also over the top:

Copyright violations aside, this is pretty funny and great parody.  Often when I watch these longer videos (over a minute) I get bored pretty fast, this one I watched through to the end. Now that says something about my attention span and the quality of most web videos.

Look it even made “Mars Attacks!” look funny, that’s an accomplishment in itself.

The difference between this video and the first spot is that the first one is deadly serious, this one has its tongue firmly planted in cheek.  Its tone is over the top, but its message is not.  Even though its message is loud and clear, its not being shouted at you.

In that way it’s able to deliver it’s message without a viewer turning it out.

Sometimes it’s the simple things.

April 13, 2010

Really nice opening ad from Cal Cunningham.  I think the open is stronger than the end, with the bleached out shots of the flag and out the bus window, it’s more evocative and emotionally powerful.

The line “Now I want to fight a different kind of war…” feels like an awkward transition to  the issues section of the spot, which I’m not sure they really needed.  They could referenced service again, and kept it more general, like “Now I’m running for the US Senate, to service again by breaking through the partisanship in Washington, and help the people of North Carolina…”  This middle section is the weakest part of the ad.

The ad comes back strong with it’s disclaimer, “I approve this message, for them.” It’s unusual and somewhat mysterious so it gets my attention on a part of the spot that’s usually a throw away.

Like I said, overall this is a strong opening spot.  While I don’t feel all warm and fuzzy for Cal Cunningham, I like him and what to know more about it.  Like a look bio movie, the ad doesn’t try to tell you everything about Cal Cunningham’s life, but it takes some episode that says something larger about the person.

I’ll be looking out for the follow up to this ad to see what they have in store next.

Sometimes it’s not black or white

April 9, 2010

I was trying to find something to write about this week, there are ads out there now, but for the most part, I was looking for something interesting to say or at least something interesting to show.  I was going to write about Ned Lamont’s new ad, but now I can save that till next week.

My friend Emily sent me this ad, and asked me what I thought.  She said “Would love to know what you think. I don’t really know how I feel about it…”

After watching the ad (well, actually it’s a web video since it’s almost a minute and a half long), I can understand what she means.  On one hand I think it’s a pretty good negative attack on Specter in a Democratic primary.  The people are believable, the music is great, the shooting style is simple but effective. I like the B&W effect, it’s interesting.  I also appreciate their restraint in the use of CG, which can be so overused (it can be like a bad powerpoint presentation, where the speaker is constantly reading from the slide, that you’re reading as well).  It’s paced really well (which you can do a little easier when you’re not locked into :30 or :60 increments), and I especially like the silent opening just being introduced to the people without any signal of what it is about.  It gets me curious about what’s to come, it engages my attention.

So it’s an honest effective swipe at Specter, that goes after the Democratic base.  It doesn’t feel mean spirited at all, which is in part what makes it so effective.

I think the part that is confusing, and maybe what my friend is reacting to, is the “Dear President Obama….”  It feels like a Red Herring.  It feels to me, in part, that the President Obama stuff is more a MacGuffin than an actual appeal. It gets you some good earned media (Sestak appeals to Obama, “We want Change” kind of headline), it offers a nice frame to the video, and gives some signal to the kind of folks Sestak is trying to appeal to.

Still the “Dear Mr President” frame also feels out of place, it just doesn’t quite work on that front, and I think that’s the confusing part.  It seems like an unnecessary attack on the President, while trying to embrace what he stands (stood?) for.

I could have titled this post “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever #4 or 5, or whatever number we’re at for the title.  This spot has so many things I like about it, but I can see how you can be on the fence about it because it is confusing or disorienting in a way.

To answer my friend’s question, I really like this video.  Despite the odd frame, I think it works, it’s very understated, but makes it’s point in an authentic way.


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