Posts Tagged ‘elephant in the room’

Sigh. Damn the torpedos.

August 12, 2013

So technically I’m on vacation, but I had to mention this ad because it just seems so… oblivious.

Two things struck me about this ad:

1. How similar in tone and content it is to the Spitzer ad(s).  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

2. Anthony Weiner just doesn’t get it. An ad that ignores what’s happened to him only reinforces the idea that he doesn’t get it, that’s he’s arrrogrant. The subtext of this ad is everything he’s trying to avoid. Instead of confronting his personal issues like Spitzer did in his first ad, Weiner uses the same tone and message, but without similar results.

You can say you get it all you want (which is essentially what Weiner is doing), but if telling people  you get it shows them that you don’t get it, well which story do you think wins?

Always leave room for milk… and the Audience

August 6, 2013

There’s something quirky about this spot that I like. I really like the line “Corey may be the frontrunner in this race, but he’s no progressive.” There’s an honesty to it that I think voters will appreciate.

Still I just can’t bring myself to love this spot. It’s one of those that ads that I’m ambivalent about — those are my favorite to write about. I write abou them because when I’m ambivalent, I usually can’t put my finger on what’s bothering me. Thats the case here.

Could it be the spot is a little too on the nose? Could it be the opening which is distinct (the scientist from Jeopary) but somehow akward (too self promoting maybe)? I don’t mind the middle issue section because those are a MacGuffin, a way for Holt to signal his values without saying he’s a progressive. But then they go ahead and say Booker’s not progressive and use progressive in the tag.

I guess I can see the potential of this spot (I’m a scientist, Booker’s the front runner but his story doesn’t match his values — do they match yours), but it doesn’t really reach it, and leave no room for the audience to put themselves in the spot, instead telling us what to think.

Take the bull by the horns. Spitzer’s first ad

July 23, 2013

When I talk about confronting the elephant in the room, this is exactly what I mean. I when I said Weiner needed to own his mistakes, to incorporate his fall into the rationale for running again, this is what I mean. This ad grabs you right from the start, and it leads with the most important information in a direct way.

“When you dig yourself a whole you can either lie in the rest of your life or you can do something positive….” That’s a great line. Spitzer appears to be talking to an interviewer, but regardless of whether it was written for him or he came up with it, it’s good copy and it’s well delievered. In fact, this ad reminded me of what I like about Spitzer. As I said to a friend, he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s a son of a bitch who’s on my side. That’s really important in politics, but especially for a position like Comptroller, where,… well let’s face it nobody really knows what they’re supposed to do, but you know it’s about making sure things run the way they’re supposed to.

This ad also does a great job of telling a story. Who’s side is Spitzer on? Yours. Who’s he against? Wall Street, big banks, special interests. I think that works because it doesn’t confuse listing issues or accomplishments with telling a story. The subtext could easily be… Once upon a time there was a guy who went after wall street and took on the powerful interests. They didn’t like him very much. Then he made a mistake… Now, he’s risen from the grave to right that wrong, they still don’t like him very much. Good, fuck ’em.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what he says in that section, but what he says is less important than the sense it conveys. (Frankly, I’m not sure what the lesson here is. Is it just a well delivered line? Is it his conviction or past story that we’re familiar with?)

The spot loses me about 40 seconds in when he starts listing his accomplishments, “When I… blah… blah… blah…” Maybe it’s because it seems more about him than us? Or maybe it’s because it’s a little on the nose, a little too much 4 instead of 2+2.  I’d be alright with ending it with “Everyone deserves a fair shot.” Think the “… even me” not only should have been left unsaid, I think it weakens everything that came before it. Is it about him or us? Is he the fallen hero seeking selfless redemtion slaying demons? (They do a great job of tapping that archetype, btw) Or is he a self-absorbed egomaniac who can’t stand being our of the limelight?

I should also mention the visuals, the close up of the glasses, the empire state building shot, which are really good.

All in all, I think this is a really good spot, that has flaws, but also addresses the biggest hurdle Spitzer would face his own fall from grace.

Own your own story

May 22, 2013

Anthony Weiner is running for Mayor of New York City.

So there are a lot of things to like about the video. First of all, I love the message, I love how he ties his story of growing up to the story of a City. As a naitive New Yorker, his theme, that New York is moving awy from average middle class folks feels like it could powerfully resonate with a lot of people.

Emotionally I think the tone is right.

But… I question the decision to put the ‘appology’ so far into the video almost 2/3rds at 1:44). That’s the elephant in the room for Weiner. Right now that mea culpa is almost brushed off, then he’s sitting wife by his side (which was the most awkward part of the video).

But what if he made the appology and the sin a part of his story? What if he started with that, owned his mistke, but then turned it into part of his rationale for running… (It was embarrassing, I messed up, I was dumb, I hurt a lot of people, and let more people down. It would be easy to listen to the pundits and the tabloids, to not run, to save myself the embarrassment, but you know PUT MESSAGE & STORY HERE.)

You have to own your story, all the parts of it because if you don’t others will.

I have a saying, everything before the “but” is a lie or doesn’t matter: I really like you but…, You’re a great assest to this company, but…, you did a great job on that project, but…..

I think Weiner wants to shrug off the appology, wants to deflect the elephant in the room instead of embracing it (that’s a mixed metaphor or a poor one for sure). Ultimately I think that will do him in rather than help him.

This is a pretty good opening video, but….

 

Real honest to goodness authenticity (and we really mean it)

May 6, 2013

I talk a lot about authenticity here. That’s because the best stories, the most compelling storytelling has truth and authenticity at its’ core. It’s not always enough for something to be true, it also has to ring true. That’s a hard lesson to live by.. . I remember many years ago working on an ad, we put a number in there for some fact or another, the number was 100% abosultely true, but it was so large, it just felt… unbelievable. We ended up taking it out because it required too much of the viewer.

I’m all for pushing viewers, not catering to the lowest common denominator as so many ads (political and otherwise) do these days, but you also have to know your audience, and understand their mindset. Like I’ve said before, it’s a fine line between stupid and clever. 

(The Walmart video has several videos all about the same in message and emotion.)

Walmart and JC Penny, both trying to convey a mea culpa of sorts. Walmart of course trying to make themselves something other than the huge behemoth crushing local business and wages, a comapny that treats it’s employees as cheaply as its products. JC Penny fresh off trying to transform itself with Ron Johnson, who ran the Apple stores for so many years, facing falling stock prices and sales.

Both comapnies deserve credit for confronting the elephant in the room, and realizing that they have issues, that shouldn’t be ignored. The question about both of these ads are they authentic in any way?

Is JC Penny really sorry? Are they sorry for not listening or because their changes failed to draw more customers?

Is Walmart really the great place to work and shop they say it is? Just because they say it with happy music and happy customers (and employees) does that make it true?

There’s a story my mom tells… One day the phone rang, my dad answered. “Mr Strasberg,” the voice on the other line asked,”We’re calling for President Nixon….”

“Yes,” my dad answered unphased.

“Yes, we were hoping you could help us with a problem… We’d like you to help us make the President look truthful.”

“I see,” said my dad, “Well, that’s easy, if you want to make the President truthful, then have him tell the truth.”

This is the essential problem with both these ads, and all ads like these ones. The truth speaks for itself. Trust is earned, truth can’t just be created it has to be bought, not with money or air time, but with hard authentic work. There’s no short cut to truth except truth itself. I think both JC Penny and Walmart are going to find this lesson out the hard way.

 

 

The road ahead or dead end?

April 25, 2012

Protect NC Families is up with two ads trying to defeat the discriminatory Amendment 1:

I’m split on these ads.  From a tactical point of view, I like them, they try to tackle an issue in an emotional way, telling a story and putting a face to the consequences of passing an amendment that might otherwise be anonymous. They’re well filmed and well made, not earth shattering, but really solid and professional.

At the strategic level, I wonder if these spots are barking up the right tree. I totally get the thinking, we can’t argue gay marriage in North Carolina, we’ll never win, so let’s make it about straight folks, real North Carolinians who will lose their rights. We’ll get them on self interest. Shoot, even as I write the argument down it’s compelling, and I could see myself falling down a similar rabbit hole.

But while it’s compelling, I’m not sure it’s right (funny thing about being wrong, it feels just like being right… until the moment you realize you’re wrong). First off people vote on values, they vote on emotion, they don’t vote on rational self interest. Secondly, there’s been some pretty interesting research that you don’t move people when you talk about gay marriage as a rights issue.  People don’t get married for their partners benefits, they get married because they love each other, they get married to make a commitment to that love, they get married to spent their lives together — not to spend their insurance coverage.

So I wonder if the Protect NC Families is miscalculating. I’m sure on a poll this message drives voters, but in the real world, I wonder if it’s a dead end — especially to the extent that the Amendment is associated with gay marriage in the mind of voters. It’s sort of pulling a bait and switch, don’t think of an elephant kind of trick.

Compare those ads with this one from New York:

This ad takes the point of view of straight people, but does it in the context of a mother’s love for her child, and her approval of her son’s love for another man. That’s a pretty powerful message, and it doesn’t risk alienating voters. I wonder if these ads are just being too cute with this issue instead of trying to deal with it head on.

And the Nominee is…

December 5, 2011

I was planning to just look at Rick Perry’s new ad today, but then Newt went ahead and released his first spot of the primary season, so it’s a twofer Monday here at Ad Nauseum.

I really liked this ad from Perry which basically takes ownership of his much discussed brain fart. It felt pretty authentic, and I think Perry does a good job delivering the lines. There’s not much else to the ad, the issue and positioning stuff is really just filler. I frankly can’t remember any of it —  I’ll always remember this as Perry’s apology ad, even though that’s only about half the ad. There’s a point to be made here: That you can’t cram too much into an ad, basically in :30 people will remember one or two elements. If you want them to remember more, then you can have one overarching theme, and the other elements need to connect to them, but even then, it’s the overarching theme that resonates with an audience.

The delivery is smooth, and not too forced, though I wouldn’t go so far to say natural. Still, I think Perry comes off as likable, and this ad could only help remind folks why they were so excited about Perry to begin with. My biggest question about the ad is the timing. I think this ad comes too late to really stem the damage from the debate. An ad like this a couple days after the debate mistake or possibly a week afterwards might have muted the criticism, and showed Perry as a likable guy who could good naturally admit mistakes.  Coming almost three weeks after the gaffe, I really wonder if audiences have moved on.

In the first 10-15 seconds of Newt’s first ad, I thought I was really going to like it. It’s exactly the kind of message I think a Republican should be using (talking about American exceptionalism in nostalgic and reverential tones). But after those first 15 seconds, the spot doesn’t really go anywhere except to Newt.

I can’t quite put my finger on why it’s so flat. I really like the images (the Marines marching, the hand on the amber waves of grain, the flags), so I don’t think it’s the visuals (except the weird cross fade from the Statue of Liberty).  I wonder if it’s the music which starts as emotional, but never builds or goes anywhere. Much like the spot, the music seems to meander, once it’s made it’s central point. The spot seems almost tamped down. I wonder if that was a deliberate choice?

Maybe they’re trying to play Newt against type, he’s known as being fiery, so we’ll play him calm and mellow. I’m not sure that really works here, even though I think the message is appealing to voters.

At the end of the day, I think voters will respond to this ad, it’s compelling enough, but just so.

 

Final Push Nevada

October 27, 2010

Harry Reid’s final ad (maybe according to Plum Line) isn’t about Harry Reid at all, but rather is all about Sharron Angle’s world. Of the Reid  ads I’ve seen this one is the most effective. They’re still cramming a lot in there, and the prisoner massage stuff is a little out of the blue, but it’s really the first ad from Reid that really uses emotion to drive the message rather than logic.  This ad doesn’t tell you how to feel (you should be scared of crazy Sharron Angle), it just presents the elements of the argument to the viewer which I believe is a better/stronger way to go.  It leaves room for viewers to fill in the last step for themselves.

Don’t know if the design elements work (the colorized images and the grid — I think it’s a grid), but the ad works, not a great, but a good ending salvo.

And it’s much better than what the DSCC put up on Reid’s behalf.  First there was this one:

The good news: I think it’s smart to face up to voter’s anger, that’s the only reason someone like Angle is this close to becoming a US Senator.  I would have liked to see more ads that acknowledge that fact, reflect it back to voters.   The bad news, I find it insulting when the narrator says, “Imagine how angry you’ll be when Sharron Angle..” and “Work that anger out in the ring cause voting for Sharron Angle is only going to hurt yourself.” Just as understanding as the opening language was, that language is patronizing and out of touch.

I find the kick boxing distracting, and I can’t actually take in the information they’re trying to present. Points for trying don’t count for much in politics, I just think they got it wrong here, the ad ultimately feels tone deaf.

The followup to kickboxer, references the same line at the top and has a better transition (not as insulting is better).  This ad almost feels like an acknowledgement that the first one was a mistake.  It’s defiantly better, but suffer from the same problem as most of the anti-Angle ads do, the ad feels jammed packed even though they’re only talking about jobs and social security.  Maybe it’s the design of the ad, but I find it hard to focus on one thing, I had to watch it three times just to write this post (it felt like seven issues in there).

Knowing that voters are angry, the ads are trying to make the race about Angle, will that be enough on election day to keep Angle from 50%?

The final push

October 25, 2010

We’re entering that time when campaigns make that final push to the finish line.  One week left, what message do you want to leave with voters before they head into the voting booth (do folks still vote in booths).  Something positive about you? A vision for the future? The cost of electing the other guy?  In races where the margins are too large to make up, do you try to push your name id for the next campaign? These are tough choices to make, as the field of possibilities narrows to one last message, one last opportunity to make your case.

Meg Whitman goes with the honesty approach, a one minute plea, that is part humble admission that folks might not like here, part bio, part political platitude, part vision statement.  I have to say I find this ad compelling, in the same way (even as a Democrat) I’ve found Whitman compelling.  There’s an iconic part of her story, the family moving west, making her fortune at ebay, that speaks to me, and makes me like her.  I like the admission at the open that voters see this election as an unhappy choice, I appreciate her naming that elephant in the room, and trying to turn it around.  While I find the middle  section not as compelling (I’m not a politician), overall I like this ad, it is a simple expression of her and her candidacy.

Compare that with Harry Reid’s last message to voters, which I find kind of all over the place.  This ad feels like it’s trying to do too much.  Where the Whitman ad is all about an emotional appeal, this ad feels like its trying to get voters to vote in their own self interest, which frankly rarely works.  In some ways it’s a fitting end to the Reid campaign which has always been about brute force and attrition tactics. There’s nothing subtle about this ad, but I don’t know if there’s anything exceptional about it either.  At the end of the day, it leaves me cold, neither likely Angle any less nor liking Reid any more.

That’s the Chicago Way…

June 30, 2010

“They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s* the *Chicago* way!” – The Untouchables

“The Untouchables” was one of my favorite movies in High School.  I have no idea if it still holds up, but I sure did love it, and it had more than its share of memorable lines.

I quoted the line above as a lead into the battle for Illinois Senate. (I know Illinois is not only Chicago, but it’s a great quote and relevant, so bear with me.)

A couple of months ago, it seemed that Alexis Ginnoulias’ campaign was going down because of the failure of his family’s bank, I wrote about his ad coming out of that scandal here. Well, now it appears that Mark Kirk’s campaign has hit a seemingly insurmountable scandal.

After a month of dodging and hiding, Kirk has decided to try and put the heat back on his opponent with two ads:

I like how the BP add touts Kirk’s environmental record, it’s unexpected so it gets my attention.  I’m not so taken with the attack on Giannoulias.  It’s a little all over the place, an aide worked for BP and he’s for higher energy taxes?  The fact that the narrator is trying make some link for me doesn’t really help, if you don’t feel or see the link for yourself if you have to be told (“Big differences on the environment and taxes”) it loses its power.

The second ad is more of the same, it’s hiting Giannoulias for being only 34, then hitting him for loans to mobsters, then losing money in the College fund as treasurer, then he supports higher taxes for more spending. It’s a lot to pack into one ad, and while they’re supposed to be linked thematically (you can’t trust him with your money), I’m still trying to take in the information as the next item comes up, and in the end, I don’t really get any of it either emotionally or intellectually.

The last line bothers me too, “Alexi Giannoulias, trust him with your money…” It’s supposed to be a question, but the read doesn’t quite pull it off, and it feels awkward — I think they ran out of time for the narrator to either ask the question or give the line the inflection it needed.

I had a friend who worked in commercial advertising who always wondered why political ads had so much crap pilled into them.  This is a perfect example of that approach, “Hey, let’s pull all the lines that polled well against Giannoulias.” I think this ad and the previous one would have been better off with a less is more approach.

The overall sense with two ads, is that the Kirk campaign is wildly throwing haymakers trying to counter punch it’s way out of the corner, instead of using a timed timed Jab that catches the other campaign off balance.  If I was working on the Kirk campaign, I would worry this approach would come off as desperate, fighting from weakness and fear instead of confidence and strength.  I also wonder if Kirk wouldn’t have been better off facing the elephant in the room, apologizing on the air, and turning that apology into his core message somehow.

The Giannoulias folks obviously were expecting an attack because 24 hours after Kirk’s attack they released their own attack on Kirk:

I think their approach is interesting: There’s no narrator, just the disembodied voice of newscasters, reporting and discussing  Kirk’s lies and misrepresentations (and Kirk himself uttering them).  It’s entirely focused on that one issue, and obviously the creators thought enough of the attack to let the ad run one minute.  Compare this to the sixty seconds (over two ads) of the Kirk attacks…. I think the difference is clear. I’m not sure I could repeat any individual Kirk misrepresentation, but I think the overall impression, that Kirk has repeatedly said things he knows to be untrue, sticks with me.  While on the other side, I’m not sure if any of his attacks stays with me cleanly (frankly the thing I remember most is that Giannoulias is 34, which I think makes him accomplished in my eyes, not too young).

My one quibble is the final line, “Typical Washington Politician,” feels like too much of a cliche to describe this situation, kind of a stretch as well. I might have ended with all the quotes on the screen, and let the viewer make their own conclusion.

Still I think the lesson for today is as hard as it is to cut good stuff from an ad, less is often more.

In my opinion, Kirk brought a knife to a gunfight, a definite no-no. This round goes to Giannoulias.


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