Posts Tagged ‘on message’

Funny is not being on-message ( ad)

June 17, 2013

Money in politics. It’s an important issue, but one that doesn’t really get the attention it deserves. It’s also one of those issues that if you ask most people they’d agree that money in politics has corrupted our political system. The problem is both the intentisty of their feeling, the vaguenes of what it actually means, and then ultimately, what do you do about the problem (I had  a poli sci professor, Professor Cobb who always said politicians never idtentify a problem without telling you the solution).

This ad is funny, and the gimmick at it’s core seems to be tightly connected to its central message, but I’d argue the ad is both off-message and off-emotion.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot today because it does seem to perfectly capture the zeigiest around this issue but it nagged at me. Here’s the thing, the image of an elderly man is funny. But targetting politicians is too easy, so while the image of an old man on a pole is unexpected, the message that politicians are stippers or whores isn’t so unexpected. Who doesn’t think that already?

Emotionally, the ad uses surprise and anger. But again the surprise isn’t on-message, and we’re already angry at our politicians if Congress’ approval rating means anything.

So really what is the ad asking the audience to do? It’s not driving us to action nor creating a new link or adding a new thought to our understanding of the influence of money in politics.

Refering back to the Apple signature ad I looked at yesterday, this ad does the exact opposite. Apple focuses on the experience that the features create. This ad focuses on the features (politicians will do anything for money) rather than the experience (how congress sells out the middle class to big corporate interests or whatever they’re trying to say).

Most of the time when I criticize gimmicks its because they’re only about getting attention and don’t connect to the core message. Here the issue is slightly different, the gimmick connects to the core, but I think has chosen the wrong core. Maybe it gets some attention, so in that sense it could be a useful proposition, but it feels like a wasted opportunity to frame an issue and offer a solution.

What’s the point?

May 2, 2013

I’ve seen this Kevin Durant ad about 20 times in the last month. I think it’s really clever, it’s well acted (I love the mom’s response as she tugs at her wedding ring), it’s unexpected. I’ve watched it 20 times, but last night was the first night I realized it was for Spring PCS. Huh.

I talk about gimmicks a lot here. Here is a great example of when gimmicks fail.This is a well execucted ad and its a failure.

If the gimmick isn’t central to the product (whether its cell service or a candidate), then the gimmick gets remembered but the message gets lost.


Do Production values matter?

April 27, 2012

Interesting ad from John Tester. It’s a total gimmick ad, but I like the concept. I think the gimmick works here because it’s on message and on emotion, the key elements for any ad, but specifically an ad that revolves around a gimmick. Tester has never seemed Washington, so telling people he packs his Montana steaks, the nice touch with the boots (and the shot of the TSA agent looking at the x-ray of the steaks) works here because it matches what we think of him already.

What I don’t like about this ad is the execution. The shots are a little sloppy, the lighting is really flat (especially at the end of the ad), even the audio sounds a little crunchy. Frankly the ad feels cheap, more like a low budget commercial, then a commercial for a US Senator. Maybe that’s a stylistic choice, but I think you can be homey without looking cheap.

A good story with poor production values still works, and I think this ad mostly works. The sloppy and cheap execution do hold it back though, it feels less real, more staged, less believable somehow. Compare this ad with the gimmick ads from Hickenlooper, those were highly produced and yet still felt intimate and personal.

So a good concept taken down by poor execution. At least they’re trying to be different.

Who’s the Hero?

January 25, 2012

I came across this ad on twitter via @geekforever. (Disclaimer, my wife works at Save the Children and mentioned the DC/Save collaboration previously, but she didn’t show me any examples of the ad work:

A Collaboration between DC Comics and Save the Children

Here’s a link to the obviously good cause  (I might buy one of the shirts or iPhone case).

As a comic book fan, I was really blown away by the artwork, it’s beautiful and striking.

As a person who makes ads, I wondered, this is beautiful art, but it is a great ad?  Yes, it is attention getting which is important, it stands out, especially to someone familiar with the characters. That’s important, and I think it works well enough here that the audience will want to pause long enough to engage the ad and learn more about the message.

But I can’t help but feel it also is off-message. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but as I thought about it, I realized the focus here is on the heroes, not on you — the audience member turned hero.

So while the ad is beautiful and awesome does it reinforce the emotions and feelings that DC/Save want? Does it make the audience member feel like a hero, feel like someone who can save a life? I don’t think so.

I read somewhere “design without a message is art, design with message is an ad.

So the ad gets the right kind of attention (interest), but it doesn’t impute* it’s message and emotional content, and in that sense, it’s great art, but only an ok ad.


Thinking some more about the ad as I walked…. The problem really isn’t the art, but the headline. “We can be Heroes.” Of course the Justice League can be heroes, the point is “you” can be a hero.  It’s not about joining the Justice League (the heroes in the artwork), but about you helping when they can’t. So if it was the same artwork, but a headline like: “They can’t be heroes, but you can…” or “Be a real Hero…” or “You don’t need a costume to be a hero” then that reframes the message and the focus of the ad.

[*Impute: My new favorite word —  I picked up reading the Steve Jobs biography, which is pretty inspiring if you ask me. Basically a product or ad should impute to it’s audience it’s message — essentially it’s story and qualities should be obvious on an intuitive level, by the presentation. At least, that’s how I took it.]

Be afraid… be very afraid.

January 23, 2012

I caught this ad yesterday by chance. At first I was intrigued, I thought the concept seemed neat and execution was well done.

That was of course till I got to the end….

You could cue the foghorn sound in my head. Come on now.

Maybe they polled this message before running it, but it seems incredibly tone deaf and off-emotion:

“American creativity and innovation are under attack” (by who China) and “Foreign criminals” (who, terrorists, chinese hackers).  No! the threat is people downloading movies and music illegally, what wait?

It’s big build up for such a… petty payoff. It feels way disingenuous, like a group of big executives came together and schemed, let’s make it about America and American ingenuity, yeah, that’s the ticket.  We’ll scare people into supporting SOPA, they don’t need to understand it (because if they did they’d probably be against it),  they’re easy marks.

Now I’m worked up.

This ad is insulting actually, it’s premise is that you can just scare folks into agreeing with you. To be honest it pisses me off, it’s the worst kind of cynical advertising, and despite the nifty graphics and cool execution it’s garbage.

Whatever the reasoning even if there is a more innocent rationale for the ad, I think it’ll be incredibly ineffective. I just can’t see this ad getting people worked up, it won’t resonate because it so obviously trying to make a mountain out of mole-hill, why should anyone care? Because of “foreign criminals”? Do they really want me to believe that the greatest threat to American innovation is online piracy? How about our industrial age model school systems, maybe we ought to start, huh.

Think of the same basic message, but maybe you have a below the line worker, a grip or gaffer talking about how piracy costs them money out of their pocket (I’ve had that argument made to me before by a gaffer).  That kind of personal connection might work, because it helps to make this big issue of piracy (who’s it really hurting, big movie studios) into something personal (it’s hurting regular guys and gals like Joe Gaffer).

But unless you have Michael Bay up there talking about how he’s leaving the movie business because he can’t make money anymore because of internet piracy…. Ok, even then it probably wouldn’t be believable.

All this hyperbole over online piracy, just misses the mark, either people don’t see it as stealing or if they do, they see themselves as Robin Hoods, fighting the good fight against big corporations. My guess is that the best argument to make is to make it personal (show the victim) or reframe piracy as stealing (which they do in those movie previews) and appeal to people’s better angels.  But this ad makes it all seem like an epic moral struggle of good v. evil, and it’s just not that in most people’s minds, sorry.

The only good news about this ad is the fact that it’s so bad, it’s a good bet that no one will want to illegally download it.


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