Posts Tagged ‘Juxtapose’

Reinforcing the “truth”

May 15, 2012

Truth gets thrown around a lot in politics. What’s true? What’s not true? I read an interesting book recently “Storybranding,” that has something important to say about how we ought to think about truth.

In the book, the author talks a little about truth, but he divides truth into big “T” Truth and little “t” truth.  Put more succinctly by Robert McKee, “What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens.”  The author then says, “Stories don’t create our beliefs. Rather, their themes are like magnets that find and attach themselves to beliefs that already exist.” (Story Branding, p. 215)

That leads to this ad by President Obama.

The execution of the ad is solid enough, nothing earth shaking. I do like the juxtaposition (in college, I tried to use that word in every paper I wrote, might be the greatest word… ever) of Romney’s quotes, how he cares about workers and the like, and the worker’s bitting comments comparing Bain and Romney to vampires. That part was pretty effective.

But I think more important than the elements of the ad itself are the theme it presents. The Obama campaign is working on creating a meme regarding Romney. Here’s the brilliant thing, and it gets to the the reason for my quotes, Obama is only reinforcing the narrative people already have in their minds about Romney.

The idea that Romney is an elite rich guy, who can’t understand working people. I don’t know if that account is factual or not, but given our definitions above, I think it’s pretty true. Take a look at this previous ad:

Again pretty standard stuff except for the last snarky line “That’s what you’d expect from a guy with a swiss bank account.”

I was talking with someone about Romney, and they said, well it’s not like we’ve never elected a rich guy before. That’s right, but it’s one thing to be rich, it’s another thing for people to think that being rich somehow make you out of touch or elitist.

What’s the point of all this? Why am I reviewing two pretty generic Obama ads?

I remember when  Slate Magazine doing their truth watch on the 2000 Presidential campaign with GW Bush and the liar Al Gore. The piece stopped after five articles because the author much to her surprise couldn’t find enough Gore lies to justify a continuing run. The author

The thing is, the stories we carry with us are powerful — like stereotypes, they help us navigate the world (like stereotypes those truths can often led us in the wrong direction too). When we can reinforce those truths with our ads, like Obama does here, and the effect resonates with viewers.

What happens when the “Truth” is against us? I alway thought the best weapon on Gore’s side was Spike Jonze’s unseen documentary — which was the only time I’ve seen him portrayed as a real person.

Romney now has a decision to make does he fight against this meme, this narrative? If he chooses to fight, then he has to proceed very carefully because just protesting will only reinforce the frame people already have.  He has to do more than tell people he’s not an elitist, he has to show them he’s not. If he can’t do that in an authentic way, then he’ll never convince people otherwise. Cause that’s the thing about truth, it’s sticky till it’s not.

 

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Bang for your buck

June 28, 2011

Crossroads GPS is up with a new ad attacking Obama on the economy.  $20 million dollars a year and a half before the elections is a lot of money to spend.  So I figured their ad would be worth a look:

Wow. $20 million dollars and you get an ad that starts “These are the facts…” that was the line of the first ad I had to write all by myself (actually it went “The facts” just to be historically accurate) and that was 11 years ago.

I find this ad less than compelling.  In some ways it misses what’s a trademark of of most conservative advertising — emotion. There’s no vitriol here, no anger, well, no nothing… Even the facts are kinda boring, and while they try to contrast “the facts” with Obama’s statements, not sure the juxtaposition works.

Now I have a friend, who’s opinion I respect, who thinks it doesn’t matter how good or bad the ad is. His reasoning is $20m is a lot of money focusing people on Obama and the dismal economy, and I think he has a point…, but still come on, was this really the best they could do?

I guess if you hate Obama already this’ll get you more angry, but if you’re on the fence, is this going to do anything? I don’t think so…. People already know they economy stinks, and they’ve put it into their Obama calculation.  Is this ad about the debt ceiling vote? I’m not sure, but this ad just feels kinda mushy to me, it may be on-message, but it’s not on-emotion. It doesn’t really make me angry, it doesn’t push any emotional hot buttons or at least doesn’t push them in an effective way (I suppose the Obama “shovel ready” line is supposed to make him seem out of touch, but it feels oddly out of context the way it’s presented here).

$20 million is a lot to spend, but to me this is just another example of spending a lot of money to air something, when they should spend more than $12k to produce the ad.

To Juxtapose…

March 22, 2011

Today’s commercial was made by a friend of mine who I have both praised and savaged on this blog.

I really like this ad, sure it’s a gimmick, but it’s a gimmick that works. The guy is running for county assessor, it’s hard to think of a more boring, less dramatic elected office.

In college, my favorite word was “juxtapose” (we should all have a favorite word). I made a conscious effort to put it into every paper I wrote — it was in part because it was my favorite word, in part it was my rather vague and subtle attempt to be subversive.  Anyway, I enjoy the juxtaposition of the western themed elements (music, color, sound f/x) and the rather hum-drum nature of the candidate and the office.

This ads makes drive by assessments dramatic for F-sake.

The funny thing is, for all the drama, music, and stylized shots, this spot works — Jake Zimmerman feels real to me. I have no idea what he’s like in person, but he appears to be a no-nonsense, straight forward guy, it seems authentic.  You could have created a standard spot, imagine the same spot without the music and f/x, it would be fine, but it wouldn’t be memorable. I remember this spot, I remember the message, Jake is fair, no drive by assessments.

(To be honest, my friend showed me a cut where the drive by assessments line was executed in a more standard way, and it flopped, it wasn’t bad per se, it just didn’t really resonate the way it does in this version).

To give this spot even more credit, I’m not sure why my friend thought this combination would work, it shouldn’t, I wouldn’t have believed it would work until I saw it.  I’m not a big fan of gimmicks, usually they’re just, well a gimmick, something to get attention (the spitting on the table), but they don’t usually drive message.  The gimmick here does, and frankly, I’m not sure why, except to come back to my favorite word: Juxtaposition.


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