Posts Tagged ‘gimmicks’

At least he’s trying. Spitzer’s second ad.

July 26, 2013

Gosh I wish Elliot Spitzer could run ads from now till 2014.

I’m not sure this is a great ad, not even sure I like it, but at least the guy (well probably Jimmy Siegel) is trying.

What I like about this ad is it doesn’t hit you over the head with it’s message, doesn’t feel the need to fill the quiet space nor pump you full of talking points. It keeps you waiting, and doesn’t reveal itself till the end and even then, it doesn it with a crinkled newspaper headline. I really appreciate that they trusted their concept.

I’m not sure the music is right, but again, think of how this ad vould have gone: Elliot Spizer has spend a career going after Wall Street… Blah… blah.. blah… Instead of the usual talking points, they engage you with a reveal, and let your imagination fill in the rest (gosh, he has been a thorn in Wall Street’s side) to my mind that’s worth a 1000 talking points.

 

Funny is not being on-message (Represent.us ad)

June 17, 2013

Money in politics. It’s an important issue, but one that doesn’t really get the attention it deserves. It’s also one of those issues that if you ask most people they’d agree that money in politics has corrupted our political system. The problem is both the intentisty of their feeling, the vaguenes of what it actually means, and then ultimately, what do you do about the problem (I had  a poli sci professor, Professor Cobb who always said politicians never idtentify a problem without telling you the solution).

This ad is funny, and the gimmick at it’s core seems to be tightly connected to its central message, but I’d argue the ad is both off-message and off-emotion.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot today because it does seem to perfectly capture the zeigiest around this issue but it nagged at me. Here’s the thing, the image of an elderly man is funny. But targetting politicians is too easy, so while the image of an old man on a pole is unexpected, the message that politicians are stippers or whores isn’t so unexpected. Who doesn’t think that already?

Emotionally, the ad uses surprise and anger. But again the surprise isn’t on-message, and we’re already angry at our politicians if Congress’ approval rating means anything.

So really what is the ad asking the audience to do? It’s not driving us to action nor creating a new link or adding a new thought to our understanding of the influence of money in politics.

Refering back to the Apple signature ad I looked at yesterday, this ad does the exact opposite. Apple focuses on the experience that the features create. This ad focuses on the features (politicians will do anything for money) rather than the experience (how congress sells out the middle class to big corporate interests or whatever they’re trying to say).

Most of the time when I criticize gimmicks its because they’re only about getting attention and don’t connect to the core message. Here the issue is slightly different, the gimmick connects to the core, but I think Represent.us has chosen the wrong core. Maybe it gets Represent.us some attention, so in that sense it could be a useful proposition, but it feels like a wasted opportunity to frame an issue and offer a solution.

What’s the point?

May 2, 2013

I’ve seen this Kevin Durant ad about 20 times in the last month. I think it’s really clever, it’s well acted (I love the mom’s response as she tugs at her wedding ring), it’s unexpected. I’ve watched it 20 times, but last night was the first night I realized it was for Spring PCS. Huh.

I talk about gimmicks a lot here. Here is a great example of when gimmicks fail.This is a well execucted ad and its a failure.

If the gimmick isn’t central to the product (whether its cell service or a candidate), then the gimmick gets remembered but the message gets lost.

 

It’s a fine line between stupid and clever

April 22, 2013

Pretty funny ad from Kmart.

The ad is of course provacative, and at it’s core basically a gimmick. I laughed at the execution, and I think it will be successful to the extent that Kmart’s message is tied into the gimmick. Essentially could the ad be from another retailer in the same market space, let’s say Target or JC Penny?

At the end of the day how much do people connect the “ship my pants” ad to Kmart or do they jsut remember some department store had the “ship my pants” ad? In other words does it succeed in pushing the message or does it simple amuse?

Filming Talking Points

October 16, 2012

Two quick thoughts on this ad from Crossroads:

I think this ad is a complete fail for two reasons:

1. They introduce the King Angus theme at the beginning, but then don’t go anywhere with it? Why waste seven seconds of the spot playing with Angus King’s name, then just let the concept drop.  So instead of a clever concept you have a gimmick that doesn’t push the ad forward at all.

2. My understanding is that King was a pretty popular governor in Maine. I’m not sure how attacking his record as Governor makes anyone change their mind.

If they could have connected the whole King Angus with this record as governor, in other words, connect their frame to the specifics of the ad, maybe they could sell their message. Instead they have a series of talking point masquerading as an ad.

A Bridge too far….

August 21, 2012

Wow that’s a lot of production values for a political ad.  I love the pledge zombies concept, too bad the creators of the ad seem to not know what to do with it. There’s this big build up, then you have what’s a pretty standard political ad. Seems like there are two ads in here, a concept spot about “Pledge Zombies” and a standard to camera ad about the Pledge and why it’s bad for business.

The concept ad could be hilarious, imagine a standard political ad with the pledge zombie, meeting voters, working at their desk, with their family.  (I can see it in my head, it’s pretty funny there at least.) In this ad, it feels like it’s wasted, there’s no payoff to the concept, so why go through all that work?

The failure of this ad isn’t from a lack of creativity or execution, both are very good, but a lack of courage on the part of the consultants (or the candidate) to follow through with a brilliant concept. They came up with something interesting, and instead of playing it, trusting the concept to deliver the message, they go half way, so the ad is neither a good concept ad or a good political ad. (Ok, it’s actually a pretty good political ad, that was a little harsh, it’s just aspires to be something more, and it fails in that aspect.)

I remember reading a book when I was younger, “A Bridge too Far,” by Cornelius Ryan. It a historical account of the the audacious allied plan to end the war, by capturing a series of five bridges behind enemy lines and  opening up a northern route into Germany.  Despite all sorts of problems, the Allies captured four of the five bridges, prompting General Montgomery to proclaim it a success, and others to say, they went “a bridge too far.”

This ad is like Operation Market Garden (the name of the plan in the book), four of five bridges isn’t actually a success, judged by the standards it has set up, it’s a failure, which is too bad because it’s so close to being awesome.

A different kind of gimmick

August 2, 2012

Wasn’t planning on writing about this ad, but I’m the middle of a great book, “Winning the Story Wars,” and it helped me focus my thoughts about the ad in a way that I thought was helpful:

I write a lot about gimmicks — ads that use a trick or device to get attention. When these ads work, the gimmick is on-emotion and in tune with the authentic story of the brand (or candidate).  When they don’t work, it’s often because the gimmick is just spitting on the table — it’s only about getting attention, and the emotional connection to the brand or message is non-existant.

This Cicilline ad uses a different kind of gimmick. It wasn’t clear to me until I read this from “Winning the Story Wars”:

The Trial of Gimmickry

SIN: Are you trying to make a quick emotional connection by putting all your eggs in the basket of nonsensical humor or high-intensity emotion?

SUCCESS: Or are you building emotional affinity around shared values – layering humor and emotional intensity on top of this solid foundation?

My first thought about the Cicilline ad (really, my second thought, my first thought was that the footage looks kinda bad) was that it didn’t earn the emotion it was seeking — telling stories about Cicilline coming to the aid of Rhode Islanders.  There were too many stories, and somehow they don’t resonate.  Reading the quote from Story Wars, it’s obvious to me now, this is another type of gimmick ad, though less obvious the the ones that rely on humor or some conceit. And to put it in the Story Wars framework, this ad is trying for high intensity emotion, but it’s not built on any foundation.

Look, I’m sure he helped all those people, and that’s great, but that’s his job isn’t it?  What makes these cases special or unique? Is Cicilline the kind of guy who goes out of his way to help people? Or is he an unpopular congressman, trying to bolster his image?

In some ways these ads show disrespect for the viewers. Look, all advertising is manipulative, but hopefully, it offers something more than the manipulation. The two olympic ads I showed yesterday earned their moment, when it gets dusty at the end of the Proctor and Gamble ad, it had worked to get me the viewer there, to get me invested in the story.

This ad, just those an old woman, a vet, a cancer survivor out there, trying to manipulate me without really having to try, it’s just going through the motions. They don’t invest in their story or characters, so I don’t invest my emotions in the spot. I’ve never thought of this emotional manipulation as a gimmick, but it is, and it fails big time here.

Do Production values matter?

April 27, 2012

Interesting ad from John Tester. It’s a total gimmick ad, but I like the concept. I think the gimmick works here because it’s on message and on emotion, the key elements for any ad, but specifically an ad that revolves around a gimmick. Tester has never seemed Washington, so telling people he packs his Montana steaks, the nice touch with the boots (and the shot of the TSA agent looking at the x-ray of the steaks) works here because it matches what we think of him already.

What I don’t like about this ad is the execution. The shots are a little sloppy, the lighting is really flat (especially at the end of the ad), even the audio sounds a little crunchy. Frankly the ad feels cheap, more like a low budget commercial, then a commercial for a US Senator. Maybe that’s a stylistic choice, but I think you can be homey without looking cheap.

A good story with poor production values still works, and I think this ad mostly works. The sloppy and cheap execution do hold it back though, it feels less real, more staged, less believable somehow. Compare this ad with the gimmick ads from Hickenlooper, those were highly produced and yet still felt intimate and personal.

So a good concept taken down by poor execution. At least they’re trying to be different.

Gimmicks

February 29, 2012

I came across the new JC Penny ads today.  Usually JC Penny wouldn’t really hold much interest for me, but Ron Johnson, the new CEO of JC Penny was the man who designed and ran the Apple Stores is remaking JC Penny.

I liked these ads. Using Ellen is a bit of a MacGuffin, she brings attention to the brand, but also her association lends some character to a brand that’s really nondescript — what does JC Penny stand for anyway? Are they design oriented like Target? Or cheap like Wal-Mart?  What’s their story.

These ads are gimmicky and entertaining, but I think it serves a purpose beyond attention — it signals a new direction for JC Penny. By focusing on four different areas — returns, coupons, sales and $.99 pricing, they show the new direction.  They could have just run ads saying, JC Penny, no coupons, easy returns, blah, blah, blah. Instead they indicate the new direction, a sense of putting customers first, a sense of caring about customers in way that other stores don’t, a sense that they understand our frustrations (and in that sense Ellen as the “every women” is a perfect choice for a brand spokesperson).

My only quibble would be are they JC Penny branded enough? Meaning, do you watch the ads and know it’s a JC Penny ad without the fanfare?  But still, I think these are really well done, entertaining and on-emotion, good job.

Here’s another gimmick ad:

I liked the way they based the ad on a real stunt — that kind of coordination is great in a campaign.  The hurdles are clever a way to make it clear the attack on women’s health. A minute ad might seem like a luxury, but I thought it was nice that they took their time, let the viewer take in the stunt, the meaning of the hurdles and some of the message, without forcing it on us.

The ad kinda doesn’t know where to go after it introduces the stunt, so it loses some steam (there are a lot of shots of people looking at the hurdles, that I’m not sure if they’re helping), but it’s a solid B+/A-.

Dueling ads – The Republican Presidential Primary

February 17, 2012

In sports there’s something called a challenge trade — when two teams trade underperforming players at the same position.  Romney and Santorum are engaged in something of a challenge air war.  Romney err, Restore our Future is up attacking Santorum, trying to undermine Santorum’s conservative street cred.

The ad is pretty mediocre, basically a message delivery device without much creativity. But the point is to try and muddy the waters and subvert Santorum’s message that he’s the real conservative — would the “right” choice really vote <gasp> to raise the debt limit? If Romney’s not a man of the people, then neither is Santorum the “Ultimate washington insider.” If I was grading the ad, I would probably say it’s about a C or C+ if I was feeling generous. There’s nothing really wrong about it,but there’s nothing compelling or interesting.  Actually not sure why they include the Romney stuff, it’s not really catchy

Santorum on the other hand is running a pretty interesting ad with an interesting strategy behind it. It’s a gimmick ad, but the gimmick works because it reinforces the message. “Rombo” is on the lose shooting mud at Santorum.  It’s actually a pretty clever concept, and they certainly go all the way with it, down to an actor who looks like Romney.  I like the concept the execution is good, but not great, but I think the strategy behind it is just as clever.

Rombo also is subtlety subversive — Romney isn’t the tough conservative he plays on TV (Rambo), but some kind of phony “Rombo” shooting a mud in a white shirt and tie. It’s a slight jab, but  the subtext might be more effective at capturing the anti-Romney malaise that Republican primary voters are feeling than the text.

Santorum can’t compete with Romney’s cash advantage (I saw it as at least 3:1). This ad is trying to functionally dislocate Romney’s advantage — it’s not an unusual strategy, but well played in this case. The hope is to remind voters of Romney’s negatives every time you see a Romney ad attacking Santorum. While, I’m not a fan of the ultimatum approach at the end, I still think given the execution of the ad it could be effective in helping to blunt Romney’s advantage.

By wrapping the message around such an entertaining and off-beat concept, Santorum might be able to poison Romney’s negative ads.

The easy winner this round is Santorum.  The only question is can Santorum continue to move and out flank Romney.


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