Posts Tagged ‘review’

Review: Health Care for America Now “What if”

June 19, 2009

I didn’t plan a review today. I was thinking of some more esoteric posts about ad-making, but then I saw these ads. Health care has been in the news a lot lately, and I’ve been thinking, what’s been so hard about getting this passed? I think that when it’s polled, 60% of Americans are in favor of health care reform. So what’s the problem?

As I thought about it, I realized the problem is one of definitions. What does health care reform mean? Insuring the uninsured? Lowering what we pay? Streamlining the system? Giving patients better access and better care? Taking on insurance companies? I think the answer is yes. And that’s the problem. It’s an issue that means different things to different people, so talking about “health care reform” in general doesn’t translate into support in the specific. With so many big money interests at stake, it’s no wonder that it’s been so hard to move this issue forward.

Form (on a scale A-F): C

Standard political ad stuff. Looking at the ad a second time, is that the best they could for a doctor’s office? Should I even worry about that?

There was a saying around film school, “If they’re noticing the boom in the shot, it doesn’t matter that it’s there. It means you’ve lost the audience.” Translated, that means: If the spot was working, I wouldn’t have time to wonder about the doctor’s office, I’d be too engrossed with the story, the message, my own emotions to care or notice.

Is this the best they could do? Its just kinda generic. The music, the visuals — nothing really stands out. Nothing get my attention; there’s no sugar coating to get me to care, to get me to listen. The copy technique of “what if,” is widely used, but feels like a gimmick here; it doesn’t really connect with the rest of the ad.

Function (on a scale A-F): C

Going to my earlier point, this ad does an adequate job of breaking down the issues around health care reform — keep your coverage, change plans, public option, lower costs, keep insurance companies honest. Got it. Those elements are really important to transforming that general support for reform into concrete support for this reform.

But will I remember it? Ben Smith of Politico says in his post that the ad is “pressing the public option by casting it as a way to stick it to greedy insurance executives.” Maybe I’m tired, maybe I’m too cynical and jaded, but does this feel like sticking to greedy insurance executives? I’ve been angry. I’ve felt outrage (watch the classic documentaries “Roger & Me” or “Harlan County, USA” to get a taste of outrage), and frankly, this ad doesn’t make me feel angry or outraged. Do you? Let me know. Post a comment.

Now, some of that is due to a “heard it all before effect”. We’ve heard all about how evil insurance companies are, we’ve already incorporated it into our data banks, this isn’t anything new. It just doesn’t get us aroused in the same way it would hearing it for the first time.

But of a lot of the empty feeling comes from the ad itself. Will a viewer’s attention even make it to that end part, the important part, to soak in that message?

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

Standard stuff, makes some important points, but it really doesn’t do anything to help it stick. With enough numbing repetition the message gets through. Maybe. But this is going to be a crowded battlefield, the other side is likely to throw some smoke bombs of their own to confuse the issue (big government health care, less choice and so on), so the fight for the hearts and minds of voters is on. It’s attrition warfare, army on army, head to head, and that’s not the kind of fight you want.

Where’s the emotion? There’s enough around this issue to be outraged over. Is this outrage? If so, it’s so generic, so general, there’s no connection. Is it trying to make a rational argument (which would be really nice if people were actually rational)? This ad just kinda sits there, there’s no soul, no feeling behind it, its paint by numbers and ultimately empty. Whether that’s by design or poor execution I’m not sure, but the result is the same.


June 15, 2009

A friend sent me this ad late Friday. In between work and the weekend, I’ve been thinking about it since.  Andrew Sullivan called attention to it on the Daily Dish. He called it, “Heartbreaking. But effective.” My friend agreed.

I’ve watched the piece 5 or 6 times, trying to decide what I think about it. Here’s a quick review.

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

I think Boris would call this ad, “Lyrical.” It was produced by Saatchi & Saatchiin France, so maybe it’s that European feel.  It’s very sparse — only 12 shots total.  Next time you think you need all those shots or fancy graphics to tell a story, watch this ad.  35 seconds of images (there’s about 10 seconds for the end cards) and 12 shots.  This spot tells a story very cleanly and without any spoken words.  It clearly shows instead of telling, a cardinal rule of script writing.

It’s also well-edited; not fancy, not calling attention to itself, but there’s usually a shot that sets up the scene, then a shot that explains what we’re seeing.  Its form adds to the emotional connection.  It gives you time to take in the scenes.

Then there’s the CG (words on the screen or computer graphics) that comes up at the end.  Smart writing and nice use of the end effect to make a point; the CGs blow off like so much dust in the wind, like memory itself fading away.

Function (on a scale A-F): B

Here’s my problem with the ad — is it really effective?  The ad is heartbreaking to be sure, and emotion gets you to care.  Is that all it’s asking?  Yes, I care, now what?  Is it too sparse?  I really wrestled with this grade because I like so many of the elements that went into this ad, and the clean, not didactic message is really appealing.  At the end of the day, I don’t know, so I punted and gave it a B.

That grade would become a C if the ad was intended to drive some further action.  It would become an A if it was only intended to drive awareness.

Editor’s Note: I had some more insight on this ad walking home after posting this review.  I was listening to Robert McKee’s “Story,” which, while annoyingly pompous in tone (both on the page and in audio format),  is also considered a master class in structure and story elements.  It’s primarily for screenwriters, but also really interesting for anyone who wants to understand story structure better.  McKee was talking about different kinds of structures.  Of one, which he call Nonplot, he says, “Although nothing changes within the universe of a Nonplot, we gain a sobering insight and hopefully something changes within us.”  With that in mind, watching the spot again, it seems the very definition of Nonplot.  It’s certainly a more European aesthetic and watching this ad feels more like watching a foreign film than an American one.  Leave it to Robert McKee to explain a French Alzheimer’s ad to me.

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

Yeah, the grade should average out to a B+, but given my ambivalence on the function grade, I decided that the form should rule the day.  Do I feel dirty, promoting form over function?  A little, actually.  But while not innovative, it was exquisitely and elegantly put together.

Is it manipulative? Yes, but isn’t that what ads are? I guess you could call this spitting on the table — it’s shocking, and in some ways an easy target.  Seniors with Alzheimer’s, how could that not pull at the heartstrings.  Too easy? I don’t know.  Much like this Volkswagen ad, when shock value is used effectively, I think it’s fair game. What I don’t like is shock value for shock value’s sake.  I think this ad is thoughtful in its approach like that Volkswagen ad; it isn’t just a gimmick, but rather deliberate and focused.  So, if someone spits on the table knowing the effect it will have, deliberately calculating their spitting (just how far can I go with this metaphor?) then I think that’s different.

In any case, this ad stands as a good counterpoint to all the yelling, fast-cutting, and graphics-heavy ads that are on the air today.

Review: Community Change Healthcare

April 23, 2009

We’re going to be seeing a lot of health care ads as the battle to finally pass comprehensive health care for all Americans heats up.   I usually like to find something good to say about a video.

The Good

So here goes:  This video is provocative, and I’ll give it points for at least trying to do something to get attention.  The shot of the stethoscope on the wallet is memorable, and in the right context could become a symbolic foundation for the push to pass universal coverage.

Unfortunately, that’s all the positive I can find.  Health care is an important issue in the lives of many Americans — especially those without coverage.  This video seems to trivialize it, confusing shock value for emotional resonance.  As a concept it fails the critical test in that it is disconnected from the core message they’re trying to convey.

The Bad

In addition, it’s poorly executed.  I understand stretched budgets, and the fact is that a good compelling story should overcome any technical or execution deficiencies.  These days there are plenty of good-looking cheap formats that could have been used; I think my ZI-6 shoots better video than we see here.  A short video doesn’t excuse poor acting. This is seduction, really? Seriously?  Maybe it’s a moot point, but again if you’re going to go in this direction, you better do a damn better job.

The message is clear: insurance companies getting in between you and your doctor. Pretty simple. But there’s no connection, no emotion by the point you get to that point.  Again, if you had created some emotion, gotten the audience to invest in the story you were telling at the start, when you get to the stethoscope on wallet shot, that could have been a powerful kick in the teeth, with almost no additional commentary needed… Instead the shot goes wasted.

Final Grade:

Form (on a scale A-F): F

From concept to execution, this is a mess.  It’s a gimmick that doesn’t help drive its message, so it becomes a bad gimmick, badly done.

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

Its message is clear at least, and the shot of the wallet does make a statement. But I’m not sure if anyone would stick around for it or even care about it when we got there.

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

I would have given this video an F because it really does fail to achieve anything of substance, but the wallet shot redeems somewhat. But a bad execution of a bad concept is especially harmful on an issue as important as this one.  All it does it set the cause back.

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