Posts Tagged ‘Less is more’

Stop Shouting: Gomez attacks Markey

June 13, 2013

Well this just isn’t working:

I know the intent, but it just isn’t working.

It was done better here:

and here:

With the Lamont & Steele ads the tone is fun and light, the Gomez ad almost feels angry to me. There’s a tone deaf quality here, like they can’t hear what they’re how loud they’re shouting.

On top of that, they cram too many details into the tail end of the ad. Isn’t it enough to say, “Ed Markey is everything that’s wrong with congress…” and leave that as the message?

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A tale of Two ads (in one)

July 19, 2012

A couple of posts ago, I looked at the Tammy Baldwin ad where she talks about taking care of her grandmother. That ad failed because it forgot about telling a story in favor of relying talking points. The story was really just a MacGuffin, so it rang as inauthentic.

Now we have Mazie Hirono’s ad “Determined.”

So I really loved this ad or should I say the first :30 seconds of this ad. The graphics and pictures are wonderful, and I find her story totally compelling and interesting. Because this ad is a :60 second ad it let her really unwind the story without rushing.

Unfortunately it’s :60 second ad, and they felt compelled to get back to the issues because campaigns are supposed to be about the issues. Look, I know what people tell you they way (to quote Henry Ford, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have told me they wanted faster horses”), but values are issues, and frankly I learned more about Mazie Hirono from the “soft” first :30 seconds than I did from the “hard” blah blah blah issues back end.

The transition from story to issues was awkward too, she’s telling a pretty personal story about her mother and growing up and suddenly the narrator interrupts (and it felt like interrupting) riffing off the word “determined.”

Look the issues part of the ad isn’t bad, it’s really nicely laid out and designed.  The issues are interesting, and not the same old same old we normally hear, but it’s an entirely different ad. It’s not like a Resses peanut butter cup (hey you got your chocolate in my peanut butter, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate…). Instead of :60, they might have been better off running 2 x :30 a bio/story spot and an issues spot that built off it.

I don’t know if the second part of the ad diffuses the power of the first, but it certainly gets lost in the emotional connection of the first part. Sometimes less is more.

Let the message speak.

June 6, 2012

Obama is up with another attack on Mitt Romney.

I think this is a good ad and an even better attack. The ad itself is simply executed, but has some nice graphic touches (like the graph lines rising up in the columns of the Mass Capitol, the way they pull the quote from the editorial and the way they scroll the list of states to #47).  I think the simplicity shows a good touch with the material, letting it speak for itself.

In lieu of some alternative information, the attack seems pretty damning — Romney did a horrible job with the Massachusetts economy.  As the opening and closing quotes show, this goes to the heart of the rationale for voting for Romney — his record.  This strategy is a nice bit of political aikido turning your opponent’s strength and energy against them. That’s the real power of this ad, it succeeds at the strategic level because it calls into question the foundation of Romney’s experience and appeal.

That attack works because they stick to the “facts” using editorials and statistics without commenting too much on those objective descriptors of Romney’s performance. I’ve written before that sometimes an ad needs to just get out of it’s own way, and this is a good example of that.  The message is the thing here, if they had tried to do too much with it, they could risk losing that powerful message in the barrage of the messenger.

Trusting your concept

July 16, 2010

So I never talked about the demon sheep video that made waves at the begining of the year (though if I had, I would have talked about gimmicks and the need to be authentic).  This commercial is by the mastermind of Demon Sheep, Fred Davis.  It’s an attack on Senator Patty Murray, who in 1992 ran as a mom in tennis shoes.

I showed this ad to a couple of folks, and they thought it was awesome.  Funny thing was, I thought it was less than awesome, and the why goes back to the title of this post. I think this is an awesome concept and a great attack.  It turns Murray’s image around in an interesting way.

So what’s the problem? I think the execution is less interesting and effective than the concept.

This isn’t a concept problem, but a script problem.  The script is heavy handed, it sort of takes the wind out from the visuals. I think this ad would be more effective with a short script that packed more punch.  Imagine the same visuals, you see the white sneaks, then they’re stepping on the backs of the people.  All this time there’s no voice over.  I think that’s interesting and it gets you curious.  After 10 or 15 seconds hit your talking points, “Patty Murray told us she was different, but she did X, Y, Z, tell Patty to get off our backs…”  Less details, sure, less message, maybe, more effective without a doubt.

This is a good concept, but I wish it had a good script to drive the point home, as it is, I think it misses the mark.

Is it enough?

June 30, 2010

I know I just posted, but this ad is worth watching.  I think it is well, done, it’s tie in to images that are in the public consciousness is very effective, it doesn’t take time to over explain its premise, it has some nice detail (the scrubbing of the hands and watch), and it has an element of the unexpected.

The spot does a good job of brining attention to the issue of Climate Legislation, though I’m not sure if actually makes a good case for why we need that legislation.  Is invoking images of oil covered animals enough?

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.

So close…

February 10, 2010

So I had a post planned about my favorite Super Bowl ad, but then I saw this video, and I wanted to talk about it:

This video is close to being good, really good.  It’s premise is brilliant, and you can see that the folks who created it really had a good time with it.

So close…. But in the end it falls short. Why?  Two reasons: 1) It’s too darned long.  I get the joke, the joke is funny, I don’t need three minutes of the same joke — it’s a like a Saturday Night Live skit that’s overstayed it’s welcome. I forced myself to get about a 1:30 into it, but after that, I realized they weren’t taking it in new directions or really giving me new information, just rehashing jokes I had already laughed at.  It really needed an editor or someone to say, we should leave the audience wanting more.  It’s just too thrilled with it’s own cleverness.

And, 2) I’ve made this point before, but humor comes from playing the reality of an absurd situation, not from playing the absurdity of it.  The b-roll here tries too hard.  I’m with the video when the “lobbyist” is on camera, but every time we cut to b-roll of him with his “matched’ politician, it loses me, it’s just a little too goofy. To use a phrase I’ve used recently, the tone of the b-roll doesn’t match the tone of the sit down section, and it throws me off.

One thing I had to learn as a writer was when to edit myself.  I wanted to get so much into a sentence, a paragraph, a document, so I added that extra line, one more phrase.  Experience has taught me that less is usually more, and sometimes that means sacrificing something you really like to make the whole better.

That’s the problem with this video.  If it was a minute, it would have been hilarious even with the distracting b-roll.  If it had been a minute with better b-roll or no b-roll, it would have been brilliant in execution and concept.  (BTW, it’s not lost on me that this is an attack on Senator Lisa Murkowski, and I like the fact that the attack is so subtle, it helps the attack to “stick” in my mind.)  But, as this video stands now it’s clever, and so close, but ultimately falls short.


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