Posts Tagged ‘Romney’

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.

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Reinforcing the “truth”

May 15, 2012

Truth gets thrown around a lot in politics. What’s true? What’s not true? I read an interesting book recently “Storybranding,” that has something important to say about how we ought to think about truth.

In the book, the author talks a little about truth, but he divides truth into big “T” Truth and little “t” truth.  Put more succinctly by Robert McKee, “What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens.”  The author then says, “Stories don’t create our beliefs. Rather, their themes are like magnets that find and attach themselves to beliefs that already exist.” (Story Branding, p. 215)

That leads to this ad by President Obama.

The execution of the ad is solid enough, nothing earth shaking. I do like the juxtaposition (in college, I tried to use that word in every paper I wrote, might be the greatest word… ever) of Romney’s quotes, how he cares about workers and the like, and the worker’s bitting comments comparing Bain and Romney to vampires. That part was pretty effective.

But I think more important than the elements of the ad itself are the theme it presents. The Obama campaign is working on creating a meme regarding Romney. Here’s the brilliant thing, and it gets to the the reason for my quotes, Obama is only reinforcing the narrative people already have in their minds about Romney.

The idea that Romney is an elite rich guy, who can’t understand working people. I don’t know if that account is factual or not, but given our definitions above, I think it’s pretty true. Take a look at this previous ad:

Again pretty standard stuff except for the last snarky line “That’s what you’d expect from a guy with a swiss bank account.”

I was talking with someone about Romney, and they said, well it’s not like we’ve never elected a rich guy before. That’s right, but it’s one thing to be rich, it’s another thing for people to think that being rich somehow make you out of touch or elitist.

What’s the point of all this? Why am I reviewing two pretty generic Obama ads?

I remember when  Slate Magazine doing their truth watch on the 2000 Presidential campaign with GW Bush and the liar Al Gore. The piece stopped after five articles because the author much to her surprise couldn’t find enough Gore lies to justify a continuing run. The author

The thing is, the stories we carry with us are powerful — like stereotypes, they help us navigate the world (like stereotypes those truths can often led us in the wrong direction too). When we can reinforce those truths with our ads, like Obama does here, and the effect resonates with viewers.

What happens when the “Truth” is against us? I alway thought the best weapon on Gore’s side was Spike Jonze’s unseen documentary — which was the only time I’ve seen him portrayed as a real person.

Romney now has a decision to make does he fight against this meme, this narrative? If he chooses to fight, then he has to proceed very carefully because just protesting will only reinforce the frame people already have.  He has to do more than tell people he’s not an elitist, he has to show them he’s not. If he can’t do that in an authentic way, then he’ll never convince people otherwise. Cause that’s the thing about truth, it’s sticky till it’s not.

 

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.

 

Is it 2012 already?

June 30, 2011

I reviewed the Crossroads GPS ad earlier this week, as you may remember they’re up with a $20 million buy.  Despite spending $20 million to run the ad, I found their ad cold, trying to make a rational case rather than wrapping an emotional case around some facts.

I came across this online video made by the Romney folks that takes on the jobs/economy theme much more effectively than crossroads.

Similar to the Crossroads ad, this one uses the President’s words and turns them against him. But where the Crossroads’ quotes felt out of context these feel devastatingly on point. While the CG’s with the numbers feel a little complicated, and I found hard to read, I did like the driving drum music, and the final shot of the empty factory was pretty powerful. Glad this ad is on the internet only and doesn’t have $20 million behind it.

Priorities USA responded to the Crossroads ad with this ad:

This spot is better than the Crossroads’ ad, while it didn’t break any new ground, and the portraits were neither particularly interesting (except for the kid at the end with the flag sitting on the soccer ball — I think it’s the ball that makes it feel authentic) nor innovative, they were trying to make the ad emotional. Gosh I do hate the ad in the TV effect showing your opponent’s attack ad, it so clunky, can’t we come up with something new? I did like the end line, “We can’t rebuild America if we tear down the middle class.”

Did I love this ad, no. It felt hackneyed and I would have rather seen more unoriginal portraits over the “ads blaming President Obama” section along with Rove headline rather than the ugly TV, it seemed to break the flow of the faces for me, and made the ad more political, and less about these people. At least they tried to hit the right emotional tone and tie it to the message, something the Crossroad ad failed to do.

These three ads/videos represent the opening salvo of the 2012 General election. Republicans want to make the election about Obama versus some hypothetical candidate, if they succeed then they win. Democrats want the election to be about Obama versus Romney or Pawlenty or Bachman or whomever, he wins that battle because they can’t compare (and their positions are ultimately unpopular). Of the three, the Romney video did the best job on striking that resonate chord. I still question if folks blame Obama for the economy or lack of jobs, they may be angry about it, but not sure they hold him accountable, voters have already made a decision about Obama, and worked the economy into that calculus.

If Republicans have any chance, they’re going to need more videos like Romney’s.


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