Archive for August, 2012

A Bridge too far….

August 21, 2012

Wow that’s a lot of production values for a political ad.  I love the pledge zombies concept, too bad the creators of the ad seem to not know what to do with it. There’s this big build up, then you have what’s a pretty standard political ad. Seems like there are two ads in here, a concept spot about “Pledge Zombies” and a standard to camera ad about the Pledge and why it’s bad for business.

The concept ad could be hilarious, imagine a standard political ad with the pledge zombie, meeting voters, working at their desk, with their family.  (I can see it in my head, it’s pretty funny there at least.) In this ad, it feels like it’s wasted, there’s no payoff to the concept, so why go through all that work?

The failure of this ad isn’t from a lack of creativity or execution, both are very good, but a lack of courage on the part of the consultants (or the candidate) to follow through with a brilliant concept. They came up with something interesting, and instead of playing it, trusting the concept to deliver the message, they go half way, so the ad is neither a good concept ad or a good political ad. (Ok, it’s actually a pretty good political ad, that was a little harsh, it’s just aspires to be something more, and it fails in that aspect.)

I remember reading a book when I was younger, “A Bridge too Far,” by Cornelius Ryan. It a historical account of the the audacious allied plan to end the war, by capturing a series of five bridges behind enemy lines and  opening up a northern route into Germany.  Despite all sorts of problems, the Allies captured four of the five bridges, prompting General Montgomery to proclaim it a success, and others to say, they went “a bridge too far.”

This ad is like Operation Market Garden (the name of the plan in the book), four of five bridges isn’t actually a success, judged by the standards it has set up, it’s a failure, which is too bad because it’s so close to being awesome.

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The no rap, rap.

August 15, 2012

Back in college, there was a lot of talk about your “rap.” Which meant, the lines you used to pick up women, or at the very least, what you said to a woman when you started talking to her. There was always discussion and envy of the guy with the smooth rap, who always seemed so confident and sure of what to say, and who always seemed to get the girl in the end.

Then there’s this… the rap with no rap:

The phrase came up one night as my friends and I discussed our “raps.” I think I said something to the extent that I had no rap and therefore was at a disadvantage, another friend who knew me too well, countered that my rap was the no rap, rap.

Other than the “guy with two first name” I thought this ad was interesting (interesting as opposed to effective, which I’m not sure about). It’s not a bio or any other specifically message driven on it’s surface. But it’s subtext (like many ads) is really where the meat is.

This ad is the political equivalent of the no-rap rap. I hate political ads, so I’m going to talk about my seemingly random friends. But what Gregg is talking about is a way of life, a way of thinking, and his connection to it. I would guess he’s betting a lot of Indianians know guys like Hobo and his friends, and somehow, being a kind of regular guy is an advantage against his opponent former Washington, DC Congressman Mike Pence.

Political ads today are almost always about the smooth rap — the focus on message over everything else. Sometimes that smooth rap is effective, usually when it’s authentic, something it’s just aired with such repetition that it becomes true, and often it’s just a bloodbath with two candidates fighting it out with their smooth raps to see which one voters like the best.

An ad like this stands out, whether it stands out for the right reasons or not, I’m not sure, but it’s interesting… or maybe it’s just my appreciation for the rap with no rap.

A different kind of gimmick

August 2, 2012

Wasn’t planning on writing about this ad, but I’m the middle of a great book, “Winning the Story Wars,” and it helped me focus my thoughts about the ad in a way that I thought was helpful:

I write a lot about gimmicks — ads that use a trick or device to get attention. When these ads work, the gimmick is on-emotion and in tune with the authentic story of the brand (or candidate).  When they don’t work, it’s often because the gimmick is just spitting on the table — it’s only about getting attention, and the emotional connection to the brand or message is non-existant.

This Cicilline ad uses a different kind of gimmick. It wasn’t clear to me until I read this from “Winning the Story Wars”:

The Trial of Gimmickry

SIN: Are you trying to make a quick emotional connection by putting all your eggs in the basket of nonsensical humor or high-intensity emotion?

SUCCESS: Or are you building emotional affinity around shared values – layering humor and emotional intensity on top of this solid foundation?

My first thought about the Cicilline ad (really, my second thought, my first thought was that the footage looks kinda bad) was that it didn’t earn the emotion it was seeking — telling stories about Cicilline coming to the aid of Rhode Islanders.  There were too many stories, and somehow they don’t resonate.  Reading the quote from Story Wars, it’s obvious to me now, this is another type of gimmick ad, though less obvious the the ones that rely on humor or some conceit. And to put it in the Story Wars framework, this ad is trying for high intensity emotion, but it’s not built on any foundation.

Look, I’m sure he helped all those people, and that’s great, but that’s his job isn’t it?  What makes these cases special or unique? Is Cicilline the kind of guy who goes out of his way to help people? Or is he an unpopular congressman, trying to bolster his image?

In some ways these ads show disrespect for the viewers. Look, all advertising is manipulative, but hopefully, it offers something more than the manipulation. The two olympic ads I showed yesterday earned their moment, when it gets dusty at the end of the Proctor and Gamble ad, it had worked to get me the viewer there, to get me invested in the story.

This ad, just those an old woman, a vet, a cancer survivor out there, trying to manipulate me without really having to try, it’s just going through the motions. They don’t invest in their story or characters, so I don’t invest my emotions in the spot. I’ve never thought of this emotional manipulation as a gimmick, but it is, and it fails big time here.

And now a word from our sponsor…

August 1, 2012

Taking a quick break from politics (because there are three or four ads I’d like to write about), I thought in the spirit of the day, I’d write about my favorite Olympic ads.  Fast Company posted this list here.

It’s an interesting list. Here’s their top choice:

Funny, this ad didn’t do much for me. I mean it was alright, but I don’t even think it was the best shoe ad on the list.

I thought the Nike ad “Find your Greatness” was much more inspiring and also much more on brand message:

My two favorite ads on the list are #2 and #3:

Both ads are well shot, but what really sets them apart is the emotional appeal.  How you can you not get a little teary at the end of the Mom’s ad?  And the meet the superhumans is so kick ass and proud, that it would be an insult to call it merely inspirational.

Another element that sets these two ads apart is the outstanding music.  Which both sets and frames a mood, but also drives the spots. Another element that both spots share is reflecting small familiar moments that the viewer can relate to.

The spots just suck you in from the beginning — they open with a quiet stillness that is both intriguing and engaging.

In the Olympic spirt both spots deserve a gold medal.


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