Archive for June, 2012

Does interesting = Good?

June 15, 2012

I was just lamenting to a friend that it’s sometimes hard for me to blog because I feel like I’m saying the same things again, and again, and again. That’s because for the most part you see the same ads, again and again, and again. In my more down moments, I wonder if I have anything to add to what I’ve already said, and worry that it’s not enough to beat the drum, if you’re beating out the same rhythm (rhythm is a ridiculously hard word to spell by the way, I never get it right).

I cam across this ad in the Daily Kos’ election roundup, a pretty useful daily guide to election goings on, and a great way to see new ads. They have a pretty good sense of the subtext of ads, and said about this one:

“This ad from 25-year-old Republican Weston Wamp (notable only because his father, Zach Wamp, held this seat until a cycle ago) is just deeply… weird. I can’t summarize it at all—it’s a series of different images (John Wayne! moonshot! Bill Gates!) accompanied by a strange meditation on the meaning of freedom. I will say, though, that I was sure Wamp had hired some ridiculously deep-voiced announcer to narrate the ad. Instead, it turns out that the ridiculous deep voice is Wamp’s own. (He doesn’t sound that way when he’s not trying.) Overcompensating much?…:

It’s a little weird, and not really your standard political ad, and yet, there’s something about it I like. It puts a premium on emotion and theme over pure message and facts. I just finished reading Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failures, by Tim Harford. Harford talks about the need to experiment away from the harsh glare of success and failure, in fact he says explicitly that being able to experience in places where you can fail is critical to future successes. He calls these outposts Galapagos Islands — places outside the scrutiny of everyday business or the mainstream focus of action.

I thought a lot about the idea of Galapagos Islands in politics — the stakes are so high (win or go home) and so much money is spent, there’s not much room to experiment because the costs of failure are higher than almost any other industry save ones where life and death are actually on the line (Nuclear plants, airline pilots and the like). Shit, Coke can role out a whole new formula, turn on it’s heels and call it a mistake with little or no fallout, other than a cautionary tale. A politician can’t even change their opinion on an issue opening themselves up to a negative attack.

I’m getting a little off topic here, but the point is it’s hard to try out new things especially in political campaigns. Every candidate wants different, or so they say.  The various occasions they’re presented with different, the reaction is almost always the same, wow, that’s so different, can’t we do something you know more… (I wrote a post about this very fact some time back).

Back to this spot, it’s different, and sometimes that seems weird.  What I don’t know is if it’s authentic? Is the spot just spitting on the table (if I stood up and spit on the table in a meeting, you’d certainly remember it, but would it be the message I want to convey)? Look at those Pawlenty for President spots if you want to see spitting on the table in action. I don’t know if this spot fits people’s image of Wamp, is he seen as a daddy’s boy, and this spot seems strangely like he’s overcompensating (as Nir implies)? Why did they make his voice sound… so oddly deep? My guess after listening to him speak normally is that they put some kind of effect on it in post.  What will people think of that? Is he trying too hard (like Pawlenty) to be something he’s not?

I don’t know the answers to those questions.  But here’s the thing I do know, I actually find the spot kind of interesting, and think in this case the usually astute David Nir misses the mark.  There is something bigger going on here.  “We went to the moon and played Sinatra ’cause no one told us not to…” that line is odd, but also strangely compelling and memorable. Which is what I’d say about the spot.  I’m not willing to say it’s good, but it is interesting, and in a world filled with safe and normal, that’s a step in the right direction. Is it a failure? Well, if it is, then it’s a failure that moves us closer to a success, and in my book that’s something to be admired.

Let the message speak.

June 6, 2012

Obama is up with another attack on Mitt Romney.

I think this is a good ad and an even better attack. The ad itself is simply executed, but has some nice graphic touches (like the graph lines rising up in the columns of the Mass Capitol, the way they pull the quote from the editorial and the way they scroll the list of states to #47).  I think the simplicity shows a good touch with the material, letting it speak for itself.

In lieu of some alternative information, the attack seems pretty damning — Romney did a horrible job with the Massachusetts economy.  As the opening and closing quotes show, this goes to the heart of the rationale for voting for Romney — his record.  This strategy is a nice bit of political aikido turning your opponent’s strength and energy against them. That’s the real power of this ad, it succeeds at the strategic level because it calls into question the foundation of Romney’s experience and appeal.

That attack works because they stick to the “facts” using editorials and statistics without commenting too much on those objective descriptors of Romney’s performance. I’ve written before that sometimes an ad needs to just get out of it’s own way, and this is a good example of that.  The message is the thing here, if they had tried to do too much with it, they could risk losing that powerful message in the barrage of the messenger.

Reality speaks for itself.

June 5, 2012

Been a long absence — a lot of travel, and I keep meaning to post, but I’ve been too tired and distracted.  But I saw this ad today, and it kinda annoyed me, so I thought I’d take ten minutes to share my annoyance:

The ad is actually shot pretty well, nice shots, readers of this blog should be able to guess what drives me nuts about the ad…. Did you guess yet?

I think the acting in this spot is flat, and it’s made worse by the language, “Folks who want to keep things going the same way in North Carolina….” Lines like that are political rhetoric not how people talk, it’s a talking point, not casual conversation.  They try to juxtapose that language with some casual lines (“is he not well,” “good guy…”).  I guess the reason this spot bothers me so much, is that it feels like the creators are smart enough to know they can’t just use talking points, so they’re trying, but they can’t help themselves.

The lose the real in the message. If this ad had tried to have less message, but more real, it would be a better ad. Still it was shot pretty well…..

 


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