Archive for November, 2011

Is it what you say or how you say it?

November 15, 2011

I watched this ad yesterday, the latest salvo in the Massachusetts senate race, and I knew I wanted to comment about it.  Watching it again today, it’s amazing how much I forgot about it, ok I’ll get to that later.

What I responded to in this ad was the message, Warren is unapologetically saying she’s a crusader against Wall Street, and she’s going to fight for the 99%.  What’s interesting is that she does it (unlike me) deliberately without invoking the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Of course, you all remember Crossroads GPS just attacked her for her liberal extremism as the intellectual underpinnings of that protest movement.

What I think Warren does successfully here is embrace the message without embracing the messenger.  She doesn’t run from who she is or her record, she doesn’t defend herself “before you hear a bunch of ridiculous attack ads” (which of course have already started), but rather issues a forceful statement of principles and values.

Alright, that’s 130 or so words in praise of this ad. When I first started this blog, I broke my reviews up into a form grade and a function grade, while I found that format too constraining and not ultimately helpful, I think it’s instructive here.  The function of this ad would be an A-, the form, on the other hand, being generous would be a C.

What I remember from the ad was the message: Warren fights Wall Street, which is a pretty good summation, but loses all of the detail and texture of the message. I loved the archival pictures, so vivid, but the text is kind of flat and at times falls into political cliche. The taking on the powerful interests message was lost on me until I re-watched the ad, her story had drifted away.

For a candidate who has capture so much support and excitement of voters, her delivery is alright, but not especially compelling. Was a scripted ad read off a teleprompter the best way to go here? I’ve never heard her speak, but I can’t help but think an interview ad going over the same message points, but spoken spontaneously would capture more of the real Warren. Here, I feel like I’m watching a candidate speak, the ad is well executed for what it is, but it’s not compelling in the least.

Warren wants to tell us who she is, but I feel watching this ad that she’s hiding behind a teleprompter and words written by a political consultant. I want more from her than this ad gives.

Again, maybe that’s not fair, maybe she stinks in an interview, but what the ad gives in message is lost in authenticity. (Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t believe Warren, I just don’t connect to her.)

If you averaged my earlier form grade C with the function grade A-, you end up about a B, and that’s where I’d put the ad, B/B-. It’s not a bad opening ad, certainly serviceable, but this blog isn’t about serviceable ads.  I’ve only really read about Warren in the book “Confidence Men,” by Ron Suskind, but she comes off as a compelling and intriguing figure there.  I can understand the excitement about her campaign, because I felt it too just from the little she’s in the book, she seemed genuine and passionate.

I don’t get that feeling here, or maybe I do, but it’s diluted.  Am I less excited about Warren now, no, but I’m a believer after all, am I more excited, not really. At the end of the day, this isn’t a bad ad, it’s right where it needs to be message wise, but I just felt the pieces were there for a great ad.

Battleground Massachusetts

November 10, 2011

Came across this ad running against Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts by Crossroads GPS, and while I’m not sure I have a lot to say about it, I wanted to comment on it anyway.

Execution wise, there is nothing particularly interesting about the ad.  What attracted me to it was the message.

Step 1: State the problem — no jobs, ok, I’m with you so far…

Step 2: Attack Elizabeth Warren for not focusing on jobs…, and siding with Occupy Wall Street.

Maybe they have some polling that shows this to be a good strategy.  I’ve said before Massachusetts is more blue collar Democrat than lefty liberal Democrat. But I see reveal problems with the approach:

First Warren isn’t even in elected office, so hitting her on jobs seems problematic at best, and at worse, it raises the issue for Senator Scott Brown, who has just voted against fairly popular job’s bill.

Second, the shots of Occupy Wall Street are so fast, you really don’t see the “drug use” and the attacking police shot, looks like police are attacking the protestors (on top of the stories of police abuse of protestors that have become youtube hits). Again it looks like you’re undermining your own cause there.

Third, the heavy handed language feels like something out of the 60’s not the 10’s. “We need jobs, not intellectual theories and radical protests,” wow, hell I would even agree with that, but what the heck does it mean?  Put another way, who is this add aimed at? To my ear it’s aimed at Tea Party members trying to shore up the base, but I wonder would they ever vote for Warren.

So if the ad is more likely aimed at middle class/blue collar independents, who typically vote Democrat, but swung to Brown last election, then I think it’s mis-calibrated. The language is too harsh and steeped in conservative lexicon (intellectual theories, radical protests, extreme left protests), it’s like their so inside their own bubble, they can’t put themselves inside some else’s head.

I may be wrong, but I think most independents see Occupy Wall Street somewhat favorably, even if they’re unsure about them. This ad leaves no place for them to go, pushing the extreme liberal angle so hard, that I can’t help but feel like folks would reject it out of hand.

If this is the attack they want to make, I think a softer touch would be more effective:  Link Warren to Occupy Wall Street and hint at their extreme nature (maybe mention the name with visuals of the protestors acting up), and let folks fill in the blank.  Maybe the best description of this ad is tone deaf. If this is how Crossroads GPS is going to spend it’s mountain of cash this election season, Democrats can breath a sigh of relief.

[Post-Script] The other problem with this ad it’s way to easy to deflect the attack. In this case, done particularly eloquently by David Donnelly, the director of the watchdog group Campaign Money Watch, “This is an ad by the one percent, for the one percent.”

Also worth a read is Greg Sargent’s post which debunks the truthfulness of the ad and specifically the Schoen Poll cited in the ad.

 

 

 

 

 


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