Posts Tagged ‘message’

A contrast in styles

September 26, 2012

A couple more quick reviews today. A friend passed this West Wing reunion along:

It’s pretty clever, and actually does a good job of conveying some important information without sounding too political. Some of that is the format, a lot of that is good acting. It’s really amazing what good actors can do, the “bio” section of the video is really well done without too much fanfare.  It’s logs in at a little over four minutes, but doesn’t feel overly long. Makes me miss the West Wing too.

Next up another appearance for Elizabeth Warren. I think the script is pretty good hear, it’s conversational and common sense. It’s the kind of explanation you don’t hear a lot of in politics, straight forward, no spin, and it makes sense. My real problem with this ad is how stark it looks. It looks like a response ad from the 90’s shot on piss poor betacam. It’s flat and ugly. I understand that it might have been thrown together quickly, but surprised at how bad it looks given the ubiquitousness of quality cameras — especially in the Boston area.

I keep thinking the starkness was a deliberate choice, especially given the fact that there’s no music, but whether is a choice or not (Boris would say, “Your work is on the screen”) it’s unfortunate. Does it matter, maybe maybe not, but I think if the ad looked a little bit better it would be a home run, even looking pretty flat and dark, it’s a good spot because the message is right on.

The no rap, rap.

August 15, 2012

Back in college, there was a lot of talk about your “rap.” Which meant, the lines you used to pick up women, or at the very least, what you said to a woman when you started talking to her. There was always discussion and envy of the guy with the smooth rap, who always seemed so confident and sure of what to say, and who always seemed to get the girl in the end.

Then there’s this… the rap with no rap:

The phrase came up one night as my friends and I discussed our “raps.” I think I said something to the extent that I had no rap and therefore was at a disadvantage, another friend who knew me too well, countered that my rap was the no rap, rap.

Other than the “guy with two first name” I thought this ad was interesting (interesting as opposed to effective, which I’m not sure about). It’s not a bio or any other specifically message driven on it’s surface. But it’s subtext (like many ads) is really where the meat is.

This ad is the political equivalent of the no-rap rap. I hate political ads, so I’m going to talk about my seemingly random friends. But what Gregg is talking about is a way of life, a way of thinking, and his connection to it. I would guess he’s betting a lot of Indianians know guys like Hobo and his friends, and somehow, being a kind of regular guy is an advantage against his opponent former Washington, DC Congressman Mike Pence.

Political ads today are almost always about the smooth rap — the focus on message over everything else. Sometimes that smooth rap is effective, usually when it’s authentic, something it’s just aired with such repetition that it becomes true, and often it’s just a bloodbath with two candidates fighting it out with their smooth raps to see which one voters like the best.

An ad like this stands out, whether it stands out for the right reasons or not, I’m not sure, but it’s interesting… or maybe it’s just my appreciation for the rap with no rap.

On Strategy

February 3, 2010

Found this interesting ad from Dish TV attacking Direct TV, another in the recent trend of consumer products going negative against their opponents.

For a high end ad, I think the design is poor.  Visually it’s not much better than your usual political ad, higher end maybe, but this is the best they can do?

In the martial art Aikido, your taught to use your opponent’s energy against them, their attack becomes your attack. It’s really quick clever, and minimizes differences in size and power.  That’s what this ad does.

It’s strategically brilliant, Dish Network is turning a weakness (lack of celebrity endorsements) into a strength, lower cost, and at the same time undercutting Direct TV’s endorsement strategy.  I think this message sticks because it makes sense, those celebrities must cost a lot, and they quote some stats saying how Direct TV costs more, there’s a pretty logical if A = B, and B = C, then C = A logic at work.  If they tried to link celebrity endorsements to let’s say the quality of the satellite signal, then it would be less authentic and less effective.

No I think this works and will stick, and it forces Direct TV to respond in some otherwise they risk people thinking about how expensive they are every time they roll out another celebrity endorsement.

On form this ad would score about a C-, but for function, I think it’s an A.

I had an Italian friend, and driving the streets of Rome, she would say, red lights are only suggestions.  There’s a general rule that you don’t repeat your opponent’s charges in your ad, Dish TV reminds us that rules like that are only suggestions, good as a general guide, but should be broken when breaking it give your side the advantage.

Best of the Decade #9-#7

December 21, 2009

Here we go the nice best spots of the decade.  Why nine?  Because ten is so cliche, and I could only think of nine that I would put on my list.  Most of the spots are what’s called (I think I read this somewhere) branded emotional storytelling.  They aren’t selling features, so much as connecting with emotion.  Still they are all strong on message as well as execution.  I had a conversation with a friend of mine in the political consulting business whether this approach would work with political ads.  These are all established brands he argued, so you can sell on feeling more than the laundry list of features.  I argued I thought it could work in politics, the ipod wasn’t established as a brand for example when those commercials came out.

It’s an interesting conversation, and one  I’d like to blog about some more.

Now on to the list:


Pick one, anyone.  This had the most hits on youtube so I chose it.  This series of ads might just be the campaign of the decade.  The individual ads range from wonderful to pretty good, but the conceit works each and every time.  Want to know how to make great negative ads that stick, these are a master’s course.  They have totally changed the Mac v. PC debate.  They’re sharp, but not mean spirited, on message and factual, but not full of blah, blah, blah.  Most of all they entertain, they essentially pay you for your attention.


I’ve already mentioned this one.  But briefly, it’s just really good story telling. It uses genre cues — the music, the look of the child (is it Damion from Omen — a movie I’ve never seen, but I still get the cultural reference, weird how that works), color scheme, to add to the tension, how is this going to pay off?  When it does it’s brilliant. Again, a classic piece of storytelling in :60, that pays off at the end.  Think of it this way, they could have told you how delicious milk tastes.  How good it was for you, how great it washes down a piece of chocolate cake, instead they go straight for emotional connection. It’s memorable and effective.


Most of the other commercials on this list, I’ve thought about before in the intervening years, I had forgotten about this one.  Once upon a time kids, Saturn used to be a very interesting company with a great backstory and a compelling standout message.  They were the Southwest of car companies.  Once upon a time Saturn used to have fans and not customers.  Once upon a time, it was a company that offered buyers a unique experience, that helped it stand out, to be more than a commodity.

This commercial touches on those roots.  It doesn’t show the car until the very end.  There’s no voice over telling you about the value of the car, the features, a different kind of ad, for a different kind of car company.  The metaphor of people as their cars, gets your attention, what is going on? How will this pay off? In the words of one of the books on decision making I’ve read (Predictably Irrational, maybe) it confuses our guessing machines in our heads and that my friend gets our attention.

It’s high concept but simple at the same time. It’s well executed from the choice of car moments, to the music.

Now Saturn is just another car line, is it out of business, closed down by GM?  Who knows, and more to my point, who cares.  But once it was different.  A cautionary tale of a company that loses it’s way, when it forgets it’s own story.

When enough is enough…

August 12, 2009

Sometimes it’s enough to deliver a message.

You don’t want the ad to get in the way of the message.

I think this ad does a good job with that. It’s not innovative or particularly interesting, except in its simplicity. It doesn’t try too hard or give the usual negative political ad tricks (harsh music, “loud” graphics, a hard voice attacking, I even expected the backwards footage given it’s called “Backwards Bob,” and was pleasantly surprised not to get it). I think it’s better because it keeps it low key and matter of fact.

As an audience member I get the point, but I’m not hit over the head with it.

I also think it’s interesting because it’s a one minute ad on choice — when was the last time you saw that? Of course Virginia has an interesting history of choice and governor’s races.

In a political campaign, sometimes you need cavalry riding to the rescue, sometimes you need infantry in the form a solid message delivery.

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