Posts Tagged ‘elephant in the room’

A tale of two ads

June 15, 2010

Been a long time between posts, sorry.  Thought I’d make up for it looking at two ads today.  The ads are pretty different but both are thematically the same (after watching them you may think I’m crazy for saying that).  Both ads play upon voter anger at “broken” government.

The more traditional of the two ads.  Wonder why the guy is wearing a t-shirt?  Shhhhh…. don’t tell anyone but Charlie Baker was a CEO at a big time health insurance company.  This ad was kinda strange to me.  What’s the deal with basketball?  I don’t get it.  Again, I’m all for doing something different, but it just feels fake to me.

People hate CEO’s and politicians so we’ll put him in a t-shirt and show him playing basketball with his son.  People will love that!  He’s just like you, get it? Awesome.

I think Robert McKay in his arrogant but seminal book, “Story” said something like a baseball hat is not character — meaning just putting a character in a baseball cap does not tell you anything about the character’s character.  What the character does tells you something about who he (or she) is.  It’s about action, not what they’re wearing.

It seems to me like Baker is trying to run away who he is from and his story.  The guy went to Harvard, he was a CEO of a health insurance company, that’s the elephant in the room, better to embrace it and own your story, than let the other guys tell their story.

The ad is fine in terms of shots and the way what it is made, but it just feels phony.

This next ad goes in a different direction:

Well this is one way to go.  Not sure what’s in the water down in Alabama, but they sure are going for it down there.  So where to start?  On the positive side, I think it’s actually well filmed, I like the shaky cam, documentary feel.  I think the reveal is also nicely handled.

The ad is actually playing on the same anger at government as the Baker ad, though obviously going in a way different direction.  I think where the Bake ad feels phony this ad at least feels honest in its emotional center.  They’re definitely going high concept for political ads.

I can almost see the consultants in the room coming up with concept:

“We revolted over a tea tax for christsakes.”

“Hey, what if that was the ad…”

“No, no what if he was talking with Sam Adams, George Washington, telling them about what’s going on…”

High fives all around….

Look, I find this ad scary, and not intellectually honest, but I think that misses the point of it.  I do wonder who they’re aiming the ad at? If they get 100% of their base vote, do they get any of the independents you usually need to win a general election?  I mean come on, “Gather your armies?” Seems like a pretty radical message even for Alabama. [Ed Note: Seems Barber is in a Republican runoff, so this message is directed at his base.  I guess you have to win the election in front of you, but there is tacking to the right, and there is damn the torpedos full speed to the right. Reading his responses to questions about the ad, he’s also trying to play it coy which undermines the authenticity of the feeling the ad is designed to manipulate.]

My partner Dan loved the ad and talked about how honest it was.  I think it’s a little too honest.  There’s the text of an ad or campaign and the subtext.  This ad seems to confuse to the two (or maybe it is not a confusion, maybe it is deliberate).  All that anger and fear of government could be the subtext, but to be so on the nose with it feels a little like drinking from a fire hose.

I think when I looked at the Tim James ad (also from Alabama) I said if Tea Party and the radical right learned how to package their anger into a cooler more thoughtful package, they would be a dangerous force.  This ad tells me they still haven’t figured that out yet, which is good those of us who love this country.

It reminds me a little of the story of the Scorpion and the Frog.

Another theme is that the Tea Party is trying to own the symbolism of the American Revolution. Again, I feel like this ad is so on the nose in that attempt.

Marc Ambinder recently wrote an article titled, “Has the Tea Party done anything good for the GOP?”

The GOP hoped to channel all that anger into their party structure, but like the frog, they lost site of one key fact — the they are scorpions after all.

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Political Aikido

April 26, 2010

The wikipedia says this about Aikido: “Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on.”

This new ad from Alexi Giannoulias is a pretty good example of political Aikido — framing the failure of the “family business” (the federal takeover of the family bank he used to run) as another business lost to this bad economy is pretty smart in my opinion.  For whatever reason, I was thinking about this campaign over the weekend and the need to talk about the elephant in the room.  I think this spot does a pretty good job of just that.  I like that he’s being interviewed (or appears to be talking to an interviewer) and not reading of a teleprompter.  He seems sincere and believable.

It comes a little short of where I would go and really confronting the issue, but I think it’s about as good as you could do given the circumstances.  As Ben Smith of Politico says, “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history…”

The negative attack in the middle of the ad is interesting, pretty standard stuff, but in essence he’s tying Kirk to the failure of his “family business” and businesses like it around the state.  Of course, if you read the cite from the unemployment quote it’s from 2008. I think it’s pretty misleading because they’re obviously trying to make it sound like Kirk made that statement recently when in fact he made the statement (whatever he actually said) about three months before the financial meltdown.  That kind of inaccuracy always worries me because if it becomes the story around the ad, then it’s much easier for the other side to throw out the entire attack, and it casts doubts about your campaign’s credibility.

I’m interested to see if they can shift the story in the coming days or not, but you got to give it a try, and at the very least they’ve put the ball in Kirk’s court to react to.

Hotdogs, Apple Pie & Farouk?

January 7, 2010

A friend of mine created this ad.  I really love the opening, I’m a sucker for iconic images and Americana.  I think it’s also an interesting approach to the essential problem of this campaign: How do you run a man named Farouk Shami for governor in Texas?

I wonder if they could go the entire ad without mentioning his name? Maybe only mention it at the end? I wanted to post this ad in the wake of the Domino’s ad because I think (and I’ve told my friend as much) that while this is a great opening ad, at some point you’re going to have to address the big issue, no not that he’s a Democrat running in Texas, but his name, Farouk Shami.  If his name was Luis Gonzalez, he’d have an uphill fight even in Texas, but at least he’s be playing in the right sand box, but Farouk Shami in Texas of all places? That a pretty big hurdle to overcome.  If there’s an elephant in the room, my opinion is that you have to address it head on at some point.

It’s a good ad, and a compelling message, but I wonder in the end if it’s all just window dressing?  It’s also a good reminder that while I’m showing ads usually one at a time, especially in politics they’re often part of a campaign, and each ad should build on the last, to create a larger story or reinforce elements of the story the campaign is trying to tell.  We’ll see where this one goes.


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