Posts Tagged ‘negative ads’

That’s a mouthful… (and my “but” rule)

August 7, 2013

My first thought: Wow, Senator Pryor really doesn’t like Tom Cotton.

My Second Thoughts: This is part of a new trend of early ads (this ad is for an election over a year away) whether to buck up your support or keep your opponent from every gaining steam, these ads are becoming increasingly common.

My Third Thought: What a mess. They start by hitting Cotton for blind ambition, but then say, “…but let’s talk about Cotton’s record.” I have a rule of life — everything before the but is either a lie or doesn’t matter. You’re a great guy… but… You’re doing great work… but…. That’s a terrific point… but….

So we have blind ambition and then a litany of issues Cotton is on the wrong side of.  So what’s the walk away here? What’s my new story about Cotton? There is none. This ad seems akin to pouring gas on a car, hoping some will get into the tank. Ads should make choices, they should weave a story, but there’s no choice here except a chocie to throw the kitchen sink at the guy.

So instead of hammering a message, introducing a story about Cotton,  there’s no message and nothing to hang your hat on, except this is another political ad, isn’t it early for that?

Let’s talk Strategy

July 31, 2013

Not much to say about the video per se, but I thought this video was a good MacGuffin to talk about the comptroller race.

There’s been a lot of talk about Spitzer coming back into politics. Most of it centered around the question of could Spitzer overcome his prostitution scandal. Missed in that conversation or maybe forgotten (mostly) is that Spitzer was a pretty awful governor before he resigned. I wonder if the prostitution scandal didn’t actually save Spitzer’s reputation.  Is it easier to rebound from seeing a prostitute or being a horrible governor?

Well, since Scott Stringer thought it was his his civic duty to remind people that Spitzer’s second act is really the same as his first — claiming to be a reformer then letting everyone down).

Strategically this is probably the best way to go, smarter than pounding Spitzer on the prostitution scandal, which could seem less than honroable and everyone already knows about.

Now this is a video rather than an ad, but it makes the point, pretty straightforwardly. I found the quotes powerful and the press conference scene especially good.

This is Stringer’s best shot to take down Spitzer, and to the extend that it starts a conversation that subverts Spitzer’s appeal it will be successful. But, I wonder if people see two Spitzer’s one the arrogant failed governor who failed and the other a gunslinging Attorney General who kept them safe from the predators of Wall Street and their kind.

Is making the race a referendum on Spitzer enough? I’m not sure. I think Spitzer’s story is too strong in voters’ minds. I think Stringer still needs to sell himself, this needs to be a choice for voters.

If you don’t have something nice to say

June 7, 2013

If you read this blog, you know how it tickles me when consumer brands go negative.

Microsoft if you recall is also up with an ad against Google, seems like they’ve decided the best strategy is if you can’t say something nice about your product, just go negative against the other guy.  I was less than enthused about their attack on Google. This one play better. It’s what I would call a cute ad, generally enjoyable, but not breathtaking. It’s the kind of ad that’s amusing, but does it actually sell products?

In addition, Apple bashing has become so de rigueur, that the ad feels a little too trite or hackneyed.

Along the same lines is this ad for a Windows 8 phone:

Funny? Yes.

Memorable? Yes.

Effective? Huh.

I think they do a good job trying to tap into the meme that Apple and Samung are slugging it out, but I’m not sure their conclusion is effective. Thought in this ad, like the previous one I don’t know if I can put my finger on exactly why not.

At the end of the day, I guess neither ad creates a hole in my knowledge to fill. They’re amusing, but don’t necessarily get me interested in the product they’re trying to sell. Maybe it’s they lack credibility — Windows and Mircosoft is just a known entity that it’s hard to re-create your image, when it’s crafted in cement. In other words, it’s not just my opinion of Apple (or Samsung or google) you have to change, but it’s my opinion of Microsoft you have to change as well. And maybe not as well, maybe you have to change what I think of Microsoft (and windows) before they can go negative and change my opinion of other brands in the market place.

One of the greatest threats in a multi-party campaign is that the two front runners beat each other up so much, it leaves an opening for the underdog to sneak through. It seems that Microsoft (playing the part of the 800 lb underdog) is trying to do just that, I’m just not sure these ads are the best way to accomplish that goal.

 

If you can’t say something nice….

April 23, 2013

When things are going wrong on your campaign, you have two choices: (1) Try to defend or push back against the attacks, or (2) Change the subject and attack the shit out of our opponenents.

Fresh on charges of tresspassing on his ex-wife’s lawn (you know the one who he cheated on, telling aides he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail, meanwhile flying to South America to be with his mistress) and this ad from the DCCC Mark Sanford has a choice:

Guess he’s going with door #2.

Watching the ads the ads back to back like this, I was struck by the subtilty and directness of the ad attacking Sanford.

The Sanford attack feels slightly desperate. I understand they hate unions in South Carolina, but I watched it a couple of times and the Boeing line threw me off (and yes, I know the general situation with Boeing, probably as much as the average voter).

So Sanford is trying to muddy the waters, hey look, she’s not your voice, I may be a lying cheater, but I’m going to be your voice. That’s the subtext, and frankly the only thing keeping a Democrat in this race his the fact of his lying and cheating. Throwing the Pelosi peice in there also feels odd, again I understand the rationale, but without the context it’s just can come across like mudslinging (which is what it actually is).

The message itself isn’t bad, but the vehicle for that message feels a little sloppy.

 

You call this negative?

April 15, 2013

For followers of this blog, you know I love it when consumer brands go negative:

1. It tickles me because many traditional advertisers have a holier than thou attitude towards negative advertising,

2. and it’s always interesting to see their takes on negative ads. Some like Apple do it very very well, others like Direct TV and Dish, eh not so much.

Mircosoft is the latest to join the negative ad bandwagon. They have a whole “don’t get scroggled campaign” which generally goes after google for being less than their vaunted “do no evil” policy. The appoach is interesting because previously they tried to show how their search engine Bing was superior. I guess that campaign wasn’t so successful so Microsfot decided they would (horrow) go negative.

So is their negative campaign any better than their positive one (which sucked)?

Wow, you get two ads for the price of one.

Ad One is two real people conversing casually… expect their spouting Bing talking points. These ads work to the extent that the acting and diologue sound authentic and real. This ad fails in that respect… fails pretty miserably. The acting is stiff, but maybe that’s cause the dialogue sounds more like they’re reading from a memo. Seriously Microsoft this is the best you can do?

Ad two is a ponteially interesting concept, having these goofy Internet type people, intereacting with the two actors because they know so much about him. I think the ad would have been better served moving full force with this concept, rather than trying to balance the two concept. It has potential for humor and more critically potential to show the viewer what’s wrong with Google, rather than telling them via awkward talking points.

This is almost a parody of a negative ad, and it’s neither this nor that. Not funny enough to be interesting and not pointed enough to make it’s point with force.  Without this sounding too snarky it feels like a pollster’s ad, all message but poor execution.

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.

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.

Fair or Foul?

January 30, 2012

Romney is coming out swinging against Gingrich with a new ad attacking him for ethics violations.

It’s a pretty hard hitting ad, reminding voters that Newt has a past and not a pretty one. It also goes to Newt’s principles and values, framing him as a hypocrite.  It’s an effective charge because it comes not from the campaign itself, but it comes from a third party, a trusted unbiased source.

This approach has stirred some controversy as NBC and Tom Brokaw have objected to the use of use footage in the ad. It’s not the first time this type of issue has come up, and I have to say it seems disingenuous of NBC to object to the ad.  Look, Brokaw said it, he said it to make a point, to get ratings, to report the news, whatever the reason, it a part of the public record, and I think it’s entirely fair for Romney to use it in an ad. It’s one thing if it’s not true or if they edited it to make it appear that Brokaw was saying something other than what he actually said on the air. But that’s not the case here.

For NBC  or Brokaw to cry about it now is sanctimonious bull. Brokaw claims this use compromises his role as a journalist, how is that exactly? Did he not mean what he said? Or does he regret saying it?   There’s no implication that NBC or Brokaw endorsed the campaign (and it’s not like news organizations don’t endorse candidates anyway) or in anyway said it other than to report the news.  In fact by using the motif of the tv screen (a common element of the negative ad genre) it makes it pretty clear this is a political ad — the Romney campaign didn’t need to present the news report like this, but doing so, is really going out of their way to make this look like an ad rather than try to fool the viewer into thinking this is an actual “unbiased” news report they’re watching.

If Brokaw or NBC believe this is mudslinging then why did they report it this way initially? It’s factual and effective precisely because they present the clip unedited and without commentary.

It’s the type of ad where the execution stays out of the way of the message, and while it’s not breaking new ground, my best guess is that it’ll be pretty effective at reminding people what they don’t like about Newt.

 

Cats and Dogs, Coke and Pepsi

August 4, 2011

I know I’ve said it before, but I love it when consumer brands go negative. First, it serves as an important signal to people who claim only political ads play in the mud and bemoan negative ads, that negative ads are all around us. Secondly, it’s usually an interesting to see the approach that consumer brands take as they go after each other — often to less effect than negative political ads.

Here are two ads for Pepsi going directly after Coke:

What I find interesting about the approach of these ads is that they aren’t taking on Coke on the “issues” or the “facts.” There is no price comparison or taste comparison here, these ads are making a purely emotional appeal.  “Summer time is pepsi time.”

I just started reading a promising book, “Storytelling: Branding in Practice,” and the author makes the following point, which puts the Pepsi approach into an eye opening context:

“The brand story gradually becomes synonymous with how we define ourselves as individuals and the products become the symbols that we use to tell the story our ourselves.” 

These pepsi ads are trying to tell a story about the brand that is Pepsi.

Pepsi = fun, partying, summer, hip. If you identify with those qualities or want to identify with those qualities, then you ought to be drinking Pepsi, just like Santa and our friend the polar bear. Pepsi goes after Coke by directly trying to redefine their own symbols (Santa and the polar bear), by showing them crossing the line for Pepsi it makes it ok for “you” to cross that line too, it also suggests that coke is on the other side of the hip/fun/cool line.

What does Summer represent? A break from school or responsibilities, a time to let lose, have an adventure, to live life. If you want to embody those qualities drink Pepsi,  or maybe more poignantly if you think you’re a fun, hip, cool person and want others to see you that way, you better be drinking Pepsi.

While I appreciate the jab at Coke in this way, and I’m sure it has created a lot of buzz, I’m not sure if it’s an effective attack. Much like the McCain “Celebrity Ad” reinforced Obama’s message as it sought to undermine it, and was ultimately ineffective for that reason, these ads seek to subvert the strength of it’s opponent, but I think it actually reinforces it. Sure Santa and the Polar Bear switch to Pepsi, but we all know they belong to Coke, and frankly the execution of the ads, doesn’t really make me (though maybe the younger viewers it was intended to reach have a different reaction) believe the switch. It feels all too forced and contrived.

Final Push Nevada

October 27, 2010

Harry Reid’s final ad (maybe according to Plum Line) isn’t about Harry Reid at all, but rather is all about Sharron Angle’s world. Of the Reid  ads I’ve seen this one is the most effective. They’re still cramming a lot in there, and the prisoner massage stuff is a little out of the blue, but it’s really the first ad from Reid that really uses emotion to drive the message rather than logic.  This ad doesn’t tell you how to feel (you should be scared of crazy Sharron Angle), it just presents the elements of the argument to the viewer which I believe is a better/stronger way to go.  It leaves room for viewers to fill in the last step for themselves.

Don’t know if the design elements work (the colorized images and the grid — I think it’s a grid), but the ad works, not a great, but a good ending salvo.

And it’s much better than what the DSCC put up on Reid’s behalf.  First there was this one:

The good news: I think it’s smart to face up to voter’s anger, that’s the only reason someone like Angle is this close to becoming a US Senator.  I would have liked to see more ads that acknowledge that fact, reflect it back to voters.   The bad news, I find it insulting when the narrator says, “Imagine how angry you’ll be when Sharron Angle..” and “Work that anger out in the ring cause voting for Sharron Angle is only going to hurt yourself.” Just as understanding as the opening language was, that language is patronizing and out of touch.

I find the kick boxing distracting, and I can’t actually take in the information they’re trying to present. Points for trying don’t count for much in politics, I just think they got it wrong here, the ad ultimately feels tone deaf.

The followup to kickboxer, references the same line at the top and has a better transition (not as insulting is better).  This ad almost feels like an acknowledgement that the first one was a mistake.  It’s defiantly better, but suffer from the same problem as most of the anti-Angle ads do, the ad feels jammed packed even though they’re only talking about jobs and social security.  Maybe it’s the design of the ad, but I find it hard to focus on one thing, I had to watch it three times just to write this post (it felt like seven issues in there).

Knowing that voters are angry, the ads are trying to make the race about Angle, will that be enough on election day to keep Angle from 50%?


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