Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

Always leave room for milk… and the Audience

August 6, 2013

There’s something quirky about this spot that I like. I really like the line “Corey may be the frontrunner in this race, but he’s no progressive.” There’s an honesty to it that I think voters will appreciate.

Still I just can’t bring myself to love this spot. It’s one of those that ads that I’m ambivalent about — those are my favorite to write about. I write abou them because when I’m ambivalent, I usually can’t put my finger on what’s bothering me. Thats the case here.

Could it be the spot is a little too on the nose? Could it be the opening which is distinct (the scientist from Jeopary) but somehow akward (too self promoting maybe)? I don’t mind the middle issue section because those are a MacGuffin, a way for Holt to signal his values without saying he’s a progressive. But then they go ahead and say Booker’s not progressive and use progressive in the tag.

I guess I can see the potential of this spot (I’m a scientist, Booker’s the front runner but his story doesn’t match his values — do they match yours), but it doesn’t really reach it, and leave no room for the audience to put themselves in the spot, instead telling us what to think.

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How does David beat Goliath?

May 23, 2013

Barbara Buono has an uphill battle, convincing New Jersey voters that popular Governor Chris Christie hasn’t done as good a job as people think. While Christie’s been up for a while Buono is spening $1m in the New York market (which isn’t that much in that market) with this ad.

The ad is professional, but it’s really not compelling. It picks up a little steam when :20 in when they show the picture of her dad with the sausage, but they don’t have the time or inclination to dwell there, rather they throw out hackneyed platitudes about pulling yourself up.

Here’s the thing … you’re trying to convince people of something they don’t believe, fine that’s the purpose of advertising –if people agreed with you, would you need to advertise? But when you’re facing Goliath, David is foolish to fight toe to toe. I sometimes talk about attrition warfare here, and that’s the strategy Buono is taking.

I’m getting a litte far afield from the ad istelf, but if the goal if this ad is to convince people that Christie has done a bad job, why would it? It’s a political he said/she said, Christie starts with the high ground, he has more resources, and Buono is charging her army in a frontal assualt.

What should she do? Maneuver, don’t fight him straight on, fight asymmetrically, hit Christie on an issue they don’t see coming or one that goes to the heart of his credibility. Throwing three charges against him is akin to saying nothing, it becomes political blah, blah, blah.   Maybe that issue doesn’t exist, then find something that people can hook into, something that resonates, something that’s emotional not rational (and especially not rational when people already disagree with you).

An ad like this works only if you have favorable terrain and equal or better resources.

It’s a safe ad, but when you’re fighting Goliath, playing it safe only plays to his game not yours.

It is a scorpion after all.

October 29, 2009

Have you ever heard the story of the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion wants to cross a creek so asks a frog for help.  The frog protests, “You’re a scorpion, you’re going to sting me.” The scorpion replies, “Why would I do that, if I sting you we both die?  If you take me I’ll owe you a favor.”  The frog thinks it over and decides it’s not the worst thing to have scorpion owe him a favor so he tell the scorpion to hop on, and they start making their way across the creek.

About half way across, the scorpion stings the frog.  The frog is clearly shocked and angry at the betrayal can only ask, “Why? Now we’ll both die….” The scorpion says, “What can I say, I am a scorpion after all….”

I couldn’t help thinking of that story watching this ad and feeling vaguely disappointed, then wondering why?  This is the same type of ad that Daggett ran the first time why should I expect something different from his team just because the nature of the race has changed — he received the Star-Ledger endorsement, Christie has fallen like a rock, Daggett has risen in some polls, and the two main party candidates have generally thrown enough mud at each other that voters aren’t particularly excited about the election. Oh, that’s why…, huh.

What’s wrong with the ad in my opinion?  (I may be repeating myself from post about Daggett’s first ad, but what the hell.) Well, again the production values stink.  If you’re going to do something like this do it right, this looks cheap and to voters will feel like a third party candidate ad, not the ad of a real player prepared to pull the upset.

The guy playing Christie is pretty good, but the Corzine look alike is pretty bad.  Every time he says his lines you can see the gears moving in his head, not a good way to describe an actor working.  It would have been better to find someone who looks less like Corzine and is a better actor. And frankly, Daggett isn’t compelling enough either in his interactions with the look-alikes or to camera to make this work.

It’s not all bad, the ad is cute, the “You don’t spend it,” line has some legs to it I think, and could get remembered.  The end message is right where it needs to be, “It’s never wrong to stand up for the right person,” as fears grow that voters will abandon Daggett to vote for a “real” candidate, not some long shot with no chance of winning.

And maybe that’s the thing, this ad does nothing else to make me think Daggett has a chance to win.  It’s not professional enough to give him credibility, it’s not serious enough to make him appear serious, it’s not funny or clever enough to really be memorable, and it just doesn’t feel authentic to who Chris Daggett is, this feels like a costume he put on for Halloween (there’s my requisite Halloween reference)

On top of it all, the spot doesn’t tout his endorsement, which in my mind is a great validator for him, gives him real credibility, the biggest paper in the state thought enough of him to endorse him, why shouldn’t you? Do they think people know about it? That it doesn’t matter or they didn’t want to cut the cutesy intro to the ad to insert a message point of real substance?

Harsh I know.  I was tell a friend that if I lived in Jersey, I don’t know who I would vote for, I want to be compelled by Daggett, but this doesn’t do it.  I guess that’s why I can’t help felling like that damned frog, “Why?…”

Well, we all know the answer.

Now what?

October 13, 2009

Today’s New Jersey Star Ledger’s endorsement of independent Chris Daggett for Governor reminds me a bit of the end of the movie “The Candidate” (confession: I’ve never seen the whole movie just the end).  After Robert Redford’s challenger unexpectedly wins the election, he turns to his campaign manager and says, “Now what.” (Or something like that, I couldn’t find the clip on Youtube)

With Corzine and Christie continually pounding each other, there is an opening for a candidate like Daggett who has taken serious positions on the issue — especially as a good friend of mine says the issue people want addressed, property taxes.

I took a look at his first (and only ad) in this post, and I made the comment that the silly nature of the ad and the poor production values didn’t present him as a legitimate serious candidate.  Now that he has the endorsement of a (the) major paper in the state, he’s a serious candidate.  How does he present himself in his ads?

You can still do an interesting yet serious ad, it doesn’t have to be the boring ads we’ve seen from Corzine or Christie, but it can’t come off as silly or he risks framing himself as the only the gadfly in the race and not a serious contender.

There’s such a fine line between stupid and clever Part II

September 11, 2009

Ok, I’m repeating myself, I know, but I can’t decide which side of the line this goes on:

On one hand, I appreciate trying a different ad, and I’ve talked about the power of metaphor before. This one is pretty good on those fronts.

On the other hand, it’s kinda goofy, and the production values are not great. Why does that matter? Well, people react to all sorts of things, often without knowing what they’re reacting too.

I think the production values of an ad matter in so far as they present the quality and character of a campaign. A cheap looking ad may work if it’s part of the charm (like this classic ad from Paul Wellstone — done by the same consultant as the Daggett ad) or message of the campaign.

A challenger’s ads that look crisp and great say that candidate is ready for the big leagues. (On the other hand, I always felt the Gore for President ads looked too nice and polished — for a guy with a truth problem, whether deserved or not, I thought the ads needed to look grittier and more real.) The form of the ad, has to follow the function.

Here I’m not sure the form is helping Daggett. He needs to make people think he’s a real candidate with a real chance, this feels a more like a college film school project than a real production. No matter what the message is, that can’t help Daggett or his campaign.

Blast from the past

August 31, 2009

Wow (that’s not wow in a good way).

It’s almost like they wanted to replicate a negative ad circa 1996 with this one. It’s so heavy handed as to be laughable. That might have worked in the early days of negative ads, but today, it feels cliche and over the top. I find it hard to take seriously.

“But he prosecuted people, who did the same thing…” (My emphasis based on bad direction to the voice over talent.)

My wife said it seemed kinda sleazy.

I asked, “What Christie did?”

She answered, “No the ad.”

I agree, it’s just kinda sleazy and lame and there’s no subtly at all. Is it effective? I don’t know, Christie is increasingly being seen as a Republican crony, so the attack has some salience and drives home the message that is peculating out there. But, by going too far in it’s presentation, it risks making that message political rather than authentic.

Review: Corzine for Gov

June 9, 2009

Two new ads are up from the incumbent governor most likely to lose this fall (are there actually any others?), “Stand,” and the one I chose to review, “Congratulations.” Both ads have some interesting stylistic features; maybe I’ll review “Stand” later this week, if I get a some time.

I chose “Congratulations” because it offers a chance to talk about something I wrote about in an old failed blog — kinetic typography. What’s that? Well, here’s the best example of kinetic typography I’ve seen. Seriously, take two minutes and watch it, it’s totally worth it.

Back? Good, now take another look at this ad.

Form (on a scale A-F): B/B-

All right, let’s get down to it.  If I’m a big fan of kinetic typography, why doesn’t this spot grade out higher? Because I think it uses the kinetic type mostly as a show piece. Is the moving text really conveying any new information, or just a snazzy transition between one CG card and the next?

So sure, this is kinetic typography, but a pretty basic and pretty uninteresting example of it. Now, this type of ad is very hard to produce, every word and movement has to be planned out in advance, it’s time consuming, and it’s the type of ad that you need to give yourself a little extra time to create.  So there’s a reason to keep it simple when you’re cranking out campaign ads. But this isn’t the middle of a campaign, it’s first ad salvo; they should be able to give you more than just spinning letters.

Here, take a look at an ad we did from last year called, “Silent Bob.” (Yes, for all you Kevin Smith fans, the name was a joke that only I got.) Look, our ad is no “Girl Effect,” but the movement of the text was designed to accentuate Schaffer’s statement, make it all the more absurd, and drive the point home that’s he’s not on the side of Colorado. I point this out not to extol my work, but rather to say, you can do kinetic type on the cheap and still serve a message.

What is the text movement here doing? What is its function? I’m not sure; frankly, it feels lazy and derivative (and derivative can be good if you add you own twist).

What saves it from being a C+ form grade is the word cloud forming Christie’s image at the end; while I would quibble that the words should be easier to read (not sure if that possible), it was neat and innovative and does serve a message function. It’s not perfect, but I appreciate the effort there, and frankly, I’m going to steal it someday for an ad (unless everyone else is using it, in which case never mind).

Function (on a scale A-F): B-

It’s June, you’re an incumbent up for re-election, and you’re way down in the polls. It’s New Jersey. What do you do? Re-position your opponent, or in common parlance, go negative (the idea of negative ads is something I’ll take on another day). Opening with a negative is always a risky proposition, but less so in this case. Corzine is already unpopular, Jersey is used to slash and burn campaigns, and the only way to get his numbers up is to remind people that Corzine may be unpopular, but at least he’s on the right side of issues. Basically, he has to steal his vote from Democrats & Independents who are now siding with Christie.

Now, quick, name two things the ad mentions that Christie is against. Kinda hard, right? The point isn’t any one issue, but the idea that Christie is on the wrong side of ALL the issues, he’s not on your side.

They don’t overplay the negative with horrible music or an over-the-top voice over, which helps make the ad more believable.

The real risk now is that it’s June, will these or any Corzine attacks be as strong in October? The more you attack an opponent, the more the public starts to take everything you say with a grain of salt.

Final Grade (on a scale A-F): B-

It’s a solid ad, not too negative and fairly slick. It serves a purpose to get people to reconsider their support for Christie, hold their nose and vote for Corzine as the lesser of two evils.

The form isn’t helping it to deliver its message; it’s just slick and lazy until the end — which is interesting and effective, bordering on really good.

My main beef is that it’s mimicking a style with no understanding of what that style should be accomplishing. It’s like speaking a language without knowing the vocabulary; the words are familiar, but the meaning is gibberish.

Still, the effect doesn’t take from the message, it’s just a missed opportunity. To quote Shakespeare, it is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


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