Posts Tagged ‘Corzine’

The King is dead…, Long Live the King.

November 6, 2009

Well the 2009 elections are over, and while I only focused a little of my attention on those ads, the passing of election day marks a low tide mark in the off-year.  I’ll continue to post at least once a week, more if I see things of interest that I want to pass along.

Still, with 2009 in the rear view mirror, the 2010 elections are now in our sights along with the health care fight, and the probably climate bill coming up at the end of the year, so there will be political ads out there to discuss.

Take for example this ad from embattled Governor of New York, David Patterson:

Patterson also has another ad running. What I like about both ads is that they don’t pussyfoot around with Patterson’s situation. He’s made mistakes, he’s been heavily criticized, he’s unpopular right now — you can ignore those problems, try to dance around them with your advertising or face them, head on.  I prefer the later approach, which is why I like these ads.

First of all in this ad, “Some Say,” I find Patterson appealing, surprisingly quietly confident and well spoken.  Maybe he conveys these qualities all the time, but in my limited expose to him, I’ve never thought of him as such, more of a walking train wreck.  I appreciate how he tries to turn his negative (people say he shouldn’t run for governor) into a strength — strength of character, strength of leadership.

In that way, it reminds of me of the Inhofe spot I posted about, “One man in America.”

Secondly, it seems honest.  He’s not defensive or aggressively pushing back, just talking to voters calmly, humbly, but also with a strength that’s appealing.

The visual style reinforces this message, not too flashy, simple clean, not too flashy.  There’s a subtle push in to him at the end, it brings the viewer closer to the subject.  Underscoring the tone of the spot, it doesn’t draw attention to itself, but it’s effective in reinforcing the emotional subtext of the spot: Patterson’s not flashy, he’s about the people, he’s appealing, he’s not trying to fool you but speaking plainly and honestly.

I wonder if Patterson’ blindness is a benefit in this situation.  He can’t read the spot off a prompter like most politicians would be forced to do.  He’s had to memorize it (so it seems), and I think because of that fact, he delivers the lines instead of repeats or reads them.  I’ll be interested to see if he can continue to deliver lines like this in future ads, but it’s obvious I was impressed with his performance (and make no mistake, any time a politician is talking into the camera it’s a performance, to quote Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts…”)

The second spot is a narrator driven bio, but echoes the same themes, he’s made mistakes, he’s put the people first, strength of character, leadership.

With the echoes of Corzine’s loss in the Jersey governor’s race, I can’t help but wonder if he could have turned things around if he had taken a similar approach.  It’s bold to put a candidate with a negative approval rating in the front of your spot.  Think about those Dodd spots from this summer. The Senator barely appears in them.

I think the Dodd/Corzine approach adds to the siege mentality, it’s a losing frame of mind, a defensive approach, that tries to ignore the elephant in the room rather than make the elephant a positive (who wouldn’t want an elephant to clean up all the peanuts) or at least admit what everyone else knows (there’s an elephant here, I know I brought it into this room, and I’m going to do everything I can to get it out — anyone have a mouse).

Politics like sports can’t be played not to lose, you always have to play to win.  You never worry about how many outs you need, only how many you have.  Don’t worry about your negatives, worry how to turn those negatives into positives.

Patterson is obviously playing to win here. And while he has hurdles to overcome — bad economy, a potential popular primary opponent (Cuomo), a tough economy and dysfunctional legislature, he’s off to a good start with these ads.

If I was giving this ad a grade it would probably be a B+/A-.  A solid A for messaging (form) and a B for function, it’s not innovative, but its professional and effective.

Now what?

October 13, 2009

Today’s New Jersey Star Ledger’s endorsement of independent Chris Daggett for Governor reminds me a bit of the end of the movie “The Candidate” (confession: I’ve never seen the whole movie just the end).  After Robert Redford’s challenger unexpectedly wins the election, he turns to his campaign manager and says, “Now what.” (Or something like that, I couldn’t find the clip on Youtube)

With Corzine and Christie continually pounding each other, there is an opening for a candidate like Daggett who has taken serious positions on the issue — especially as a good friend of mine says the issue people want addressed, property taxes.

I took a look at his first (and only ad) in this post, and I made the comment that the silly nature of the ad and the poor production values didn’t present him as a legitimate serious candidate.  Now that he has the endorsement of a (the) major paper in the state, he’s a serious candidate.  How does he present himself in his ads?

You can still do an interesting yet serious ad, it doesn’t have to be the boring ads we’ve seen from Corzine or Christie, but it can’t come off as silly or he risks framing himself as the only the gadfly in the race and not a serious contender.

Blast from the past

August 31, 2009

Wow (that’s not wow in a good way).

It’s almost like they wanted to replicate a negative ad circa 1996 with this one. It’s so heavy handed as to be laughable. That might have worked in the early days of negative ads, but today, it feels cliche and over the top. I find it hard to take seriously.

“But he prosecuted people, who did the same thing…” (My emphasis based on bad direction to the voice over talent.)

My wife said it seemed kinda sleazy.

I asked, “What Christie did?”

She answered, “No the ad.”

I agree, it’s just kinda sleazy and lame and there’s no subtly at all. Is it effective? I don’t know, Christie is increasingly being seen as a Republican crony, so the attack has some salience and drives home the message that is peculating out there. But, by going too far in it’s presentation, it risks making that message political rather than authentic.

Beware the power of the negative

July 20, 2009

When I reviewed the Corzine negative, I didn’t actually talk at all about negative ads.

There’s the conventional wisdom about them that goes something like this: Everybody hates negative ads, but negative ads are the only things that can really move people and change numbers in a campaign.

So, you’re an incumbent down in the polls, let’s say you’re the Governor of New Jersey for the sake of argument. Go negative, move numbers — heck, your approval’s at 41%, can’t get any worse can it? You drive voters away from your opponent, and they end up either staying home or voting for you as the best of bad options.

Besides the obvious issue that this approach probably is a big part of the reason people hate politicians so much (not their politician, mind, you, just the general class of public servants). There’s also another price to be paid: Going negative tends to drive up your negative as well as your opponent’s.

It’s a dangerous decision in any campaign when to go negative. Of course, that’s assuming your general good enough/adequate negative ad — the garden variety negative you see most days in political campaigns. The big two no-no’s of negative ads are: 1) Over reaching: Saying more than you can legitimately prove; and  2) Attacking on something that’s not relevant to people’s lives or not making it relevant to their lives.

Like this new ad against Judge Sotomayer.

Look, I’m obviously not the audience for this ad, but seriously, do people really think Ayers is a “terrorist”? Are people ready to believe that Sotomayer supports terrorists? It’s a claim that’s so outrageous you’d better be able to prove it, and they can’t (and don’t).

There’s a new line of thought on negatives, which I think is true, that goes something like this: “People don’t hate negative ads, they hate bad ads.” (BTW, the author of the article is also the person responsible for the “Call me Harold” ad in Tennessee. While I actually think the ad was not something I would ever run, I agree with his take on negative ads.) Take this ad for example:

Oh, you were expecting a political ad, oops, my bad. A negative well done, that resonates, is like a ripple in pond. These Mac v. PC ads are perfect examples of that effect. Becoming a social phenomena that people actually seek out.

It’s always easier to activate fear and hate in viewers — that’s the way our brains are hardwired. But, if you can activate other emotions, humor for example, then you have a chance of avoiding some of the fallout from your attacks.

Something to remember next time you get that negative script and start thinking dark backgrounds, bad music, and fuzzy pictures.

Review: Corzine for Gov

June 9, 2009

Two new ads are up from the incumbent governor most likely to lose this fall (are there actually any others?), “Stand,” and the one I chose to review, “Congratulations.” Both ads have some interesting stylistic features; maybe I’ll review “Stand” later this week, if I get a some time.

I chose “Congratulations” because it offers a chance to talk about something I wrote about in an old failed blog — kinetic typography. What’s that? Well, here’s the best example of kinetic typography I’ve seen. Seriously, take two minutes and watch it, it’s totally worth it.

Back? Good, now take another look at this ad.

Form (on a scale A-F): B/B-

All right, let’s get down to it.  If I’m a big fan of kinetic typography, why doesn’t this spot grade out higher? Because I think it uses the kinetic type mostly as a show piece. Is the moving text really conveying any new information, or just a snazzy transition between one CG card and the next?

So sure, this is kinetic typography, but a pretty basic and pretty uninteresting example of it. Now, this type of ad is very hard to produce, every word and movement has to be planned out in advance, it’s time consuming, and it’s the type of ad that you need to give yourself a little extra time to create.  So there’s a reason to keep it simple when you’re cranking out campaign ads. But this isn’t the middle of a campaign, it’s first ad salvo; they should be able to give you more than just spinning letters.

Here, take a look at an ad we did from last year called, “Silent Bob.” (Yes, for all you Kevin Smith fans, the name was a joke that only I got.) Look, our ad is no “Girl Effect,” but the movement of the text was designed to accentuate Schaffer’s statement, make it all the more absurd, and drive the point home that’s he’s not on the side of Colorado. I point this out not to extol my work, but rather to say, you can do kinetic type on the cheap and still serve a message.

What is the text movement here doing? What is its function? I’m not sure; frankly, it feels lazy and derivative (and derivative can be good if you add you own twist).

What saves it from being a C+ form grade is the word cloud forming Christie’s image at the end; while I would quibble that the words should be easier to read (not sure if that possible), it was neat and innovative and does serve a message function. It’s not perfect, but I appreciate the effort there, and frankly, I’m going to steal it someday for an ad (unless everyone else is using it, in which case never mind).

Function (on a scale A-F): B-

It’s June, you’re an incumbent up for re-election, and you’re way down in the polls. It’s New Jersey. What do you do? Re-position your opponent, or in common parlance, go negative (the idea of negative ads is something I’ll take on another day). Opening with a negative is always a risky proposition, but less so in this case. Corzine is already unpopular, Jersey is used to slash and burn campaigns, and the only way to get his numbers up is to remind people that Corzine may be unpopular, but at least he’s on the right side of issues. Basically, he has to steal his vote from Democrats & Independents who are now siding with Christie.

Now, quick, name two things the ad mentions that Christie is against. Kinda hard, right? The point isn’t any one issue, but the idea that Christie is on the wrong side of ALL the issues, he’s not on your side.

They don’t overplay the negative with horrible music or an over-the-top voice over, which helps make the ad more believable.

The real risk now is that it’s June, will these or any Corzine attacks be as strong in October? The more you attack an opponent, the more the public starts to take everything you say with a grain of salt.

Final Grade (on a scale A-F): B-

It’s a solid ad, not too negative and fairly slick. It serves a purpose to get people to reconsider their support for Christie, hold their nose and vote for Corzine as the lesser of two evils.

The form isn’t helping it to deliver its message; it’s just slick and lazy until the end — which is interesting and effective, bordering on really good.

My main beef is that it’s mimicking a style with no understanding of what that style should be accomplishing. It’s like speaking a language without knowing the vocabulary; the words are familiar, but the meaning is gibberish.

Still, the effect doesn’t take from the message, it’s just a missed opportunity. To quote Shakespeare, it is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


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