Archive for November, 2010

The power and the pain of falling down

November 30, 2010

Things have slowed down here a lot with the end of political season, last week was the first time in a long while I didn’t post once.  If you’re missing Ad Nauseam, check out my Twitter feed, a lot the action has moved over there, with short comments and links to things I think are interesting or relevant in one way or another.  Still, I’ll be trying to post here once or twice a week or more if I see things that are interesting to me and require more than 140 characters to discuss.

Like this ad from GM:

Wow. This ad is a strange one for me to review, I’ve put it off because I wanted to really nail down what I thought, but at the end of the day, I’m not any closer to that for a simple reason, this ad really leaves me conflicted.

On one hand, there are things I absolutely love about this ad. The music is great, I really appreciate the lack of voice over, and the simple CG at the end “We all Fall Down… Thanks for Helping Us Get back Up again… GM 1908.” Those words imply humbleness, give the impression of the company as a scrapper (who doesn’t love the underdog), but also recall that the company is an American icon, part of the fabric of industry that made America a great country. That’s good writing.

The ad does a great job of stringing the audience along, what do these scenes have in common, where is this leading, how will it payoff? There’s no big boast, no big claim, just a message of thanks. In some ways that’s the best advertising for the company, GM is like us, we stumble, we fall, but we have to get back up (sometimes with help), that’s America.  The emotional appeal of the ad allows the consumer to relate with the company in way that a laundry list advertisement (listing attributes or a plan) never could.

So why don’t I love this ad? Why don’t I think it’s a home run?  Because I think the images and the execution are not up to the appeal.  I love the rocket collapsing, and Evil Kenevil crashing, but Popeye and Animal House?  Those guys aren’t even real, how can we relate to them?  The Truman image could be powerful, but it feels out of place here, where each other sequence gets a fall and a getting up, the Truman photo tried to be both.

The boxing shot is fine, but what about a sport that’s not so old fashioned, what about a baseball player giving up a homerun, and the manager comes out to boost him up.  Or a parent helping a child who’s fallen off their bike (or a child helping a parent who is sad), those are just off the top of my head, sitting in Starbucks writing this blog post.  There must be at least 10 other iconic images they could have used that would have been more powerful than Popeye, Animal House, and Truman.

This is a good ad, I just feel it could have been so much better. I’d be interested to hear why they chose the images they did? Was it a cost issue? A brand or metaphor issue? Some other deep thought? Or just that’s the way it worked out.

I’m not a SOB…, I’m you.

November 15, 2010

I miss political ads.  There I said it, you heard it.  I miss them, in all their glorious negativity and cliche grainy shots, I miss them. But just as I going to start a loop of the Daisy Ad, Morning in America, Willie Horton (which is actually a horrible ad), and Fast Talker, along comes my savior, the Chicago Mayor’s race.

Hey this guy looks familiar (actually he looks a little like George Clooney the way he’s dressed and with that salt and pepper hair). If I was Rahm’s political consultant, I would tell him the biggest hurdle he would have to overcome is to make him accessible. Some of this opinion might be inside the beltwayitis, but the notion Rahm and his personality are almost mythic.

The question of how to introduce a candidate is always a hard one. I like that they decided not to go for a traditional biography spot instead opting for a vision ad.  Well, really the vision part of it is a MacGuffin, it seems to me what they’re really trying to do is make Rahm a real likable person — to allow voters to connect to him.  They do a pretty good job of that too, grounding him as someone who is passionate about Chicago.

That’s a pretty powerful opening line, “Chicago is a great city, with great people, and I want my children to feel as passionate about it as I did growing up.” There’s a lot going on in that one line, some bio (has kids, he grew up here), some character (he’s passionate), and some values (a sense that he’s going to fight, that he wants to pass something important down to his kids). It’s something every parent can connect with, passing something down important to their children. That in and of itself makes Rahm human in a way a more tradition spot could not. It’sa line that’s working with the philosophy of “show don’t tell.”

Is this a great spot? No, but it’s a solid B, maybe B+. Visually it has the requisite shots of the candidate talking with folks, shaking hands interacting with kids in the classroom when you discuss education or with cops when you’re talking about “our streets.” No, the visuals are pretty standard and a couple (the rack focus taking Rahm out of focus and the end shot where’s he shaking hands, but not really looking at the guy) are odd choices.  The documentary style adds to a sense that he’s not pre-packaged and it creates a sense of reality that enhances the believability of the ad.

Essentially this ad is trying to do what the Christine O’Donnell witch spot could not, which is to take the image folks might have of the candidate and turn it (or spin it if you will) into something more positive. This spot works because it doesn’t ever go to far from what folks already know — if they had tried to show Rahm as all soft and cuddly then it would feel fake. Instead, they take the strengths of his image, and say he’s passionate and can make tough choices, now that’s believable.

My biggest complaint of the witch ad was that O’Donnell didn’t seem believable, this ad doesn’t have the problem, I think it’s very believable, and does a good job framing Rahm, which is ultimately the goal of your initial ad.

Telling your story

November 9, 2010

Not a lot of political ads these days huh.  While my posting my slow down here, I’m still pretty active on twitter, posting things that I find interesting.  You can check out the feed over on the top right of this page.

Why did I post this ad from Hovis? Adage reported that it had won “[the] Institute of Practitioners in Advertising awards, the U.K. ad industry’s prestigious effectiveness prizes.” Most effective ad, huh, well that’s interesting, because for political ads it’s all about effectiveness.

This ad is visual story telling at it’s best. Through all the changes, the bread is constant.  It’s patriotic (if you’re British) and it also harkens back to better days (in spite of the conflict those days brought).  Hovis could have told you they’ve been making their bread for 122 years, they could have said it was made with such and such ingredients (or which out such and such), they could have used stats and CG, but they tell a simple a boy getting a loaf of bread, and bringing it home.  The gimmick works here because it connects the with the important elements of the brand.  The gimmick works because it tells a story. And story resonates.


Now what?

November 8, 2010

Things will be slowing down on the blog, I’ll still be posting as much as I can as I see things that are relevant.

This weekend, I did come across this article in Fast Company about Neuromarketing political ads. Neuromarketing is, well as the article points out there is some debate about what it actually entails.  To my mind, it basically means looking at physical reactions (brain scans or non-voluntary physical responses like public dilation) to determine underlying emotional states.

There’s obviously something very intriguing about this research.  Scientific studies have often shown, most people are not very good about describing why they’re feeling what they’re feeling. They often give rationale’s cloaked as rational reasons.  I also think the focus on emotion over logic is a step in the right direction for political advertising.

On the other hand it all feels like snake oil to me — psuedo-science at his best.  A physiological response is just that, you still have to interpret it.  Maybe more importantly, the person having the response also has to interpret the response based on the filters they’ve collected in the course of their life.  Neuromarketing seems like a silver bullet, trying to quantify what is not quantifiable (like this scene from “Dead Poet’s Society”).

Who remembers New Coke? It was one of the most tested product roll outs of all time, it surpassed classic Coke in taste tests, and when it was introduced to the public…? Well, it failed the only test that really matters.  A friend of mine said of focus grouping spots, who are you going to trust, the consultant who you’re paying a lot of cash for their expertise or the person you’re paying with $20, a diet coke and a ham sandwich.

I think there is a role for testing ideas, concepts, messages, but not executions. The familiar, the tried the true, the boring and same old will always win over the cutting edge, the interesting, and the novel.  People will tell you they want logic, when they’re longing to be touched emotionally.

Back to Neuromarketing, here are the spots they looked at in the article with my brief thoughts (I’ve already written about most of them):

This spot was the highest testing in the sample.  The tester points to the constitution and the pledge of allegiance as “making it pop.”  I would say it’s an interesting idea, that’s not executed very well, and comes off as rather flat.  The fact that it tested well, makes me doubt the effectiveness of the test.

I’ve already described this two minute spot as one of the best of the year. The test and I agree it feels authentic and real.

I thought this commercial was a little creepy, but to the extent that Ted Stevens’ endorsement carried weight after his death, I thought it would be effective (as long as you could put the fact he was dead behind you).

I’ve reviewed this spot as well.  Good commercial that feels authentic to Hickenlooper (but wouldn’t necessarily work with someone else). I agree with the analysis that viewers connect with Hickenlooper’s disgust for negative ads, though not sure you need a brain scan to tell you that. Also which ad is stronger this ad or the West ad that started off the analysis?

Now the ads viewers did not like so much:

This ad has been talked to death.  Good ad? Bad ad? Effective? Is it just a coincidence that the worst testing ads were negative/attack ads?  Or do negative ads routinely test worse?

The final ad also negative used the fake Morgan Freeman voice over:

Again do negative ads get a bigger neurological response? Is that what makes them more effective? Did folks hate this ad because they believed the Morgan Freeman voice over was fake? Or did they hate it because other than the Morgan Freeman voice over and the restrained patriotic music, the script is so hack and generic that it’s almost cliche?

Neuromarkerting — new tool on the cutting edge of political advertising? Or pseduo-science?

Definitely something I plan to learn more about this off-season.

Final Push Potpourri

November 1, 2010

First off, no idea that’s actually how you spelled potpourri, would not have guessed it in a million years.

A two minute closing ad from Rubio has some people thinking he’ll run for President.  I can see that from this ad, he’s good to camera, feels authentic and compelling, and the ad has an epic sweep, it’s not just about Florida, but about America, it’s not about issues, but about a philosophy.  Two minutes seems a bit indulgent, but when you’re up big in your campaign, you can take a 50,000 foot view of things.

I don’t talk about script all that often, but the strength of this ad is it’s script.  Yes, Rubio is very good, and a lesser candidate would flounder with the sweep and narrative, but this ad gives Rubio stature without making him appear overly ambitious or pompous. It has him stake a position without him being political.  It all starts on the page, and if it isn’t on the page, it won’t appear on the screen.  The more I watch this ad, the more I like it, simple and elegant, it’s form matches the function.

On the other side of the coin you have this line, “Harry Reid working for us, Sharron Angle pathological.” Can’t help but laugh even as I write it down.  This is exactly the kind of ad I really dislike (is hate too strong a word).  It’s jammed packed, the last line isn’t bad, but it’s so rushed it feels almost like a parody of a political ad.

Going back to script, do they really need the first seven seconds of this ad? Can’t they just say, a newspaper called her pathological, that she’s lying, blah, blah…. They don’t really connect running away from reporters its a macguffin that’s not particularly useful or satisfying. While I usually like using newspapers as validators, here it almost gets lost, the impact of that word “pathological” never gets to settle because the script is on to the next line.

I’m never a big fan of using your spouse or kids in an ad unless they really have something to ad.  Exhibit A is this ad from Rand Paul. Yes, he has a pretty wife, but of course she’s going to be shilling for him, she’s married to him.  I know the rationale for using her, it shows Paul in a softer light, it makes him seem human in the light of the Aqua Buddha stuff.

Still compare this ad to the Rubio ad, which one conveys a better sense of the person? Which one tells a better story, which one is more compelling both in philosophical terms and in the epic scope.  Yes, Rubio had more time to talk, but if you gave Mrs. Paul another minute and a half, don’t think it would make a huge difference as she feels contrived whether she actually is or not.

It’s drivel, it was probably drivel on the page, and it sounds like drivel on the screen.

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