Posts Tagged ‘Frog and the Scorpion’

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.

It is a scorpion after all.

October 29, 2009

Have you ever heard the story of the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion wants to cross a creek so asks a frog for help.  The frog protests, “You’re a scorpion, you’re going to sting me.” The scorpion replies, “Why would I do that, if I sting you we both die?  If you take me I’ll owe you a favor.”  The frog thinks it over and decides it’s not the worst thing to have scorpion owe him a favor so he tell the scorpion to hop on, and they start making their way across the creek.

About half way across, the scorpion stings the frog.  The frog is clearly shocked and angry at the betrayal can only ask, “Why? Now we’ll both die….” The scorpion says, “What can I say, I am a scorpion after all….”

I couldn’t help thinking of that story watching this ad and feeling vaguely disappointed, then wondering why?  This is the same type of ad that Daggett ran the first time why should I expect something different from his team just because the nature of the race has changed — he received the Star-Ledger endorsement, Christie has fallen like a rock, Daggett has risen in some polls, and the two main party candidates have generally thrown enough mud at each other that voters aren’t particularly excited about the election. Oh, that’s why…, huh.

What’s wrong with the ad in my opinion?  (I may be repeating myself from post about Daggett’s first ad, but what the hell.) Well, again the production values stink.  If you’re going to do something like this do it right, this looks cheap and to voters will feel like a third party candidate ad, not the ad of a real player prepared to pull the upset.

The guy playing Christie is pretty good, but the Corzine look alike is pretty bad.  Every time he says his lines you can see the gears moving in his head, not a good way to describe an actor working.  It would have been better to find someone who looks less like Corzine and is a better actor. And frankly, Daggett isn’t compelling enough either in his interactions with the look-alikes or to camera to make this work.

It’s not all bad, the ad is cute, the “You don’t spend it,” line has some legs to it I think, and could get remembered.  The end message is right where it needs to be, “It’s never wrong to stand up for the right person,” as fears grow that voters will abandon Daggett to vote for a “real” candidate, not some long shot with no chance of winning.

And maybe that’s the thing, this ad does nothing else to make me think Daggett has a chance to win.  It’s not professional enough to give him credibility, it’s not serious enough to make him appear serious, it’s not funny or clever enough to really be memorable, and it just doesn’t feel authentic to who Chris Daggett is, this feels like a costume he put on for Halloween (there’s my requisite Halloween reference)

On top of it all, the spot doesn’t tout his endorsement, which in my mind is a great validator for him, gives him real credibility, the biggest paper in the state thought enough of him to endorse him, why shouldn’t you? Do they think people know about it? That it doesn’t matter or they didn’t want to cut the cutesy intro to the ad to insert a message point of real substance?

Harsh I know.  I was tell a friend that if I lived in Jersey, I don’t know who I would vote for, I want to be compelled by Daggett, but this doesn’t do it.  I guess that’s why I can’t help felling like that damned frog, “Why?…”

Well, we all know the answer.


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