Posts Tagged ‘dodd’

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.

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New Dodd Ads

June 25, 2009

Chris Dodd has three new ads up.

I’m not going to review them; they’re not particularly interesting, except in the fact that like the ad I reviewed earlier, Chris Dodd is nowhere to be found in the ads. One has Senator Kennedy talking about Chris Dodd’s role in fighting for health care; the others are real people testimonials about their issues with credit cards and how Dodd’s fighting for them by taking on credit card companies.

This approach is probably the right one, especially this early. Stay out of your own way, rebuild your reputation with credible validators, basically re-write your story in people’s minds. It might be risky, but I think at some point, Dodd’s going to have to appear in the ads in more than name. I think he has to talk about the issues that troubled him and talk honestly about them. Whether the message is he’s learned a lesson or it hurts because one mistake has tarnished a lifetime of work, I don’t really care. The real issue is when he talks about it, it had better sound truthful and authentic or it’s over. Now, this theoretical ad can happen in a year from now, but I think it has to happen.

I do wonder, how many more ads can he run? He can’t actually stay up between now and election day, right? If this approach (of starting an ad campaign a year and a half before the election) can help turn around Dodd’s fortunes by next year, then maybe we’ll be seeing more of it in the years to come.

Review: Chris Dodd Fighting Back for Us

June 2, 2009

This may be the first ad in the 2010 election season.  If you’re an incumbent US Senator running an election ad in May, a year and a half before the election, well, it doesn’t take a pollster to know you’re in trouble.  According to Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com, this is number 3 on the list of seats most likely to change parties and number one among incumbents.  That’s quite a feat.  Nate finishes his analyisis with, “the important thing about Rob Simmons is not that he’s Rob Simmons, but that he’s not Chris Dodd.”

That’s interesting in light of the ad, an ad for Chris Dodd, about Chris Dodd, in which Chris Dodd hardly appears.  Even when he does appear, it’s in a group shot alongside President Obama.

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

Nothing really compelling about the form, it’s a pretty standard-issue political ad.  They did a nice job of making the stills interesting; adding the black and white to the end gives those images a sense of weight and importance — not inventing the wheel, but nicely done, nonetheless.  Pretty moves on the pictures.  I like that they didn’t try to cram too many shots into the spot and kept the pacing nice and easy.

Still, it’s striking that Dodd hardly appears in the ad, and when he does, he’s not front and center.  Between Obama and the woman in pink (Rep. Carolyn Maloney), it’s hard to find Dodd in that group shot.  I think that was deliberate.

Function (on a scale A-F): Incomplete

Is it a cop-out to say time will tell?  The ad is an obvious attempt to re-position Dodd: look he’s with Obama! You like Obama, Obama said his name, he helps people and fights big mean credit card companies, you don’t like them.  Get it?

The only 2 pictures of Dodd show him in a group with Obama in the center.  Dodd’s part of the Obama team.  You might be angry with him, but Obama needs him — Obama says that in his Dodd shout out, and it’s reinforced in the visual.

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

Can one ad undo the damage that has been done to Dodd’s reputation?  Probably not.  Fortunately for Senator Dodd, it’s early enough in the election cycle that it doesn’t have to carry all the water in one audio-visual package.  This ad is the first of many to come.

A new study published in Advertising Age says “Though most campaigns cluster ads in a short period of time, consumers retain information better if it’s spaced out over longer intervals.” (Their emphasis.)  If this is the first of a long series of ads reframing Dodd, it’s probably a modest success.  If Dodd can continue to avoid the kind of special treatment stories that got hin into trouble, then this story can help smooth over the damage done and remind people why they voted for Senator Dodd over and over again.

This ad is also a good reminder that its hard to judge an ad out of the context of the campaign. If Dodd wins next November (assuming he makes it out of a primary), nobody will remember this ad, but ti probably played some small role in changing the Dodd story from a Seantor who’s out for himself to a Senator who is fighting for folks.  In that way, its kinda like the grunts on the ground in a war, doing its duty to the best of its ability, but part of a larger effort.


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