In the Zone

I’ve been wanting to write about this ad from the Denver’s mayor race for sometime, but wasn’t sure exactly how to express my thoughts. Still, not sure, but I think this is important, so I’m going to try and spit it out.

This ad is a great ad, no two ways about it in my opinion. It doesn’t resort to gimmicks, it isn’t funny or innovative, but it’s a great ad. [Note, I know the someone who was involved with the making of the ad.]

My firm had pitched Michael Hancock a while back, so when I was describing the ad to my partner, he asked could we have made it: Meaning was the person who made it more talented or creative than us? It was an interesting question, and made me pause because I’ll be honest: I don’t think I could have made this ad, and it’s not because I’m not talented or creative, no it’s something all together and here is where I have a hard time putting my thought into words, so bear with me.

I just finished a great book called, “Certain to Win” which takes the strategic recommendations of Sun Tzu and John Boyd and tries to translate them into the business world (whether the world of politics is more akin to warfare or business is another issue all together). The author uses elements of the German blitzkrieg  attack on France to illustrate the larger philosphical points. One element he points to is “Fingerspitzengefuhl” which means literally a fingertip feel and points to intuitive skill or instinct.

This ad has that fingerspitzengefuhl, it seems to capture all that Michael Hancock is about and embodies. It does this by telling a simple yet powerful story.  It’s tone is pitch perfect, and if I may evoke mise-en-scene that’s spot on from the music (which I think is ideal, but I don’t know if I would have come up with that choice) to the color palette — the dark and bluish tone, to the intimate shots and soundscape of a father and son’s idle talk in the car. There’s an earnestness without being cloying or trying too hard, a seriousness without being too depressing or too somber.

I love ads like this one, that can tell a story, a story that can capture the essence of a person, the tone and nature of a candidate (or brand), and do it with a simple execution without tricks or effects or even what would be considered a message in the standard sense. This is a power ad, and it’s no wonder Hancock is currently leading in the polls. I watched all the ads in the race, and they were all professionally executed, and while some were better than others, none of them stood up to this ad (or the other Hancock ads).

Back to the question: Could I have created this ad? I hate to say no, but that’s the honest answer. Could I create an ad like  this one? Yes, sometime when my talent and creativity hit that sweet spot with the right story and everything comes together just perfectly. While I’m sure some of the elements of the ad were ad hoc rather than part of some larger concept, this ad just comes together in a way that is so intuitive and special, it’s unique in that sense to this candidate and this race, and isn’t that what we want for all our ads?

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