Archive for July, 2011

What’s wrong with this spot?

July 20, 2011

Dick Lugar is up with his new ad, trying to reach out to a party base that may have passed him by.

If they had come to me first and asked me what I thought, here’s how the conversation might have played out:

Me: “I like the last line, ‘a veteran fighting along side our new recruits, will help them….’ Do we need the ‘I’ll hope you agree before it?”

Them: “Well, [insert person’s name here, senator, staff, pollster, wife, donor] insisted that it be in there, makes him seem like a regular guy, you know?:

Me: “Ok, well it sounds kinda weak, when we want him to sound strong. Isn’t that the point of the spot? That’s he’s taken on this problems before, that’s he been toughened by age and experience? Now, why no music? It’s an interesting choice.”

Them: “Yeah, well we didn’t want to make it seem like a political commercial.”

Me: “Oh, you have a senator speaking directly to camera, but you didn’t want it to feel like a political commercial? Right now it feels really flat, music could help give an emotional frame to the spot.”

Them: “We didn’t want to seem like were trying too hard or being manipulative?”

Me: “Ok, well, to be honest the spot feels a little desperate right now, like Lugar is begging for support, it feels a little pandery [is that a word, pandering?]. And, well, what the word, the Senator, well, he comes off as kinda old looking. That’s what struck me the first time he’s on screen.”

Them: “Really? We had a special make-up artist who works with aging rock stars.” [That’s a true story, I used a make-up woman who’s specialty was aging rock stars, she used a spray gun to paint on the make up of an aging man running for office.]

Me: “Well he looks and sounds old, and he’s a little weirdly happy, when he should be more intense or something, again music would help….”

Them (looking increasingly like they want to leave): “Yeah. What else?”

Me: “What’s up with the Reagan shots.”

Them: “Conservatives love Reagan, Lugar worked with Reagan, therefore conservatives love Lugar. Get it?”

Me: “Yeah, well, the shots look dated, and make you realize that Lugar has been in office a long time. Who told him to smile the whole time? <Sigh>”

Them: “So basically, you think it’s emotionally flat, he smiles too much, looks old, and seems like he’s pandering?”

Me: “Exactly, and I just don’t buy it, feels like he’s trying to be something he’s not comfortable with.”

Them: “And that…”

Me: “Is that new, did I not say that before?”

Them: “No…”

Me: “Oh, ok, yeah it feels inauthentic too. Alright well, good first cut, let’s get back into the edit room and fix it.”

Well, it would have went something like that.

Playing with and against your story

July 14, 2011

A couple of ads from the Republican primaries.

Ron Paul is up first, with a very stylistic ad heralding the coming of a new asteroid er, I mean a debt ceiling compromise.

To my mind, Paul’s story is staunch conservative, who holds views outside the mainstream, but doesn’t let that stop him. This ad plays along with that story, reinforcing what might be his strongest defining characteristic, that he’s true blue (or red), so to speak. He has principles where others lack it, he has conviction when others want to compromise.

I think this is a strong ad towards those ends. First of all, I love fake movie previews — even if this one is more of a MacGuffin, it works a the open.  It makes Paul appear strong and presidential without drifting into the crazy and dogmatic realm, that’s a tough balancing act. The shots at the ends are stills, yet they’re not static, they feel dynamic and powerful, he appears presidential, which is important to his candidacy — he can’t just be a wingnut, people have to see him as a potential president.

I think this ad also does a good job of raising the stakes on the debt limit, turning it into a battle between the forces of conviction and the forces of accommodation and appeasement — he turns compromise into an abdication of values. I really like the paper look they created, and I find it effective though I’m not sure why. This ad is a great example of the form of the ad (the stylistic elements, the music, the graphics) helping to drive the function (the message). Compare this ad to those early Pawlenty ads, they have a similar style, but in the Pawlenty ads it was all about style, there was no substance underneath.

Great opening ad that sets the frame for the Paul campaign.

On the other side of the coin is this ad from Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann’s story of course is similar to Paul’s except maybe throw in crazy.  I’m not as wild about this ad as the Paul ad, but I still think it might be an effective ad. This ad is short on style, but it’s function is clear, to counter the image of Bachmann as a raving lunatic unfit to be president. So, she talks very calmly if artificially about her record (a record that would appeal to Republican primary voters) and comes off as a little charming (hard to see the charm because her “performance” feels forced, but I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt) and somewhat boring.

I also question the opening shot, the time-lapse of Waterloo — not really compelling (maybe to folks in Waterloo), but later in the ad she has those nice archival pictures, why not throw some in of her own childhood?

I would also wonder if Bachmann can continue to run away from her narrative. While this ad does cast her as “serious” I wonder she can continue along this path, even as she bumps into her story — it just doesn’t feel authentic. Compare it to the Paul ad where he weaves what we know or might think about him into his message, and turns what might be a weakness into a strength. You can try to change your story, but it’s not easy, and you have to maintain the consistency so people really believe what you’re telling them.


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