Posts Tagged ‘tone’

Getting the right tone

February 28, 2014

So this one missed the mark.

I like the delivery and Neal McDonough, but man is that ad off base. What is it selling exactly? Ok I know its selling a luxury car, but what is the message of the ad? A mindless devotion to stuff? Working obsessively? It’s almost like a warped parody of the Chrysler “Made in Detroit” commercials. Jingoistically proclaiming American greatness, but without the original’s grit or underdog spirit.

There’s an arrogance to this ad, an almost mean spirited tone that totally ruins whatever the creators were going for.

When you get the tone wrong, its really hard to recover.

Stop Shouting: Gomez attacks Markey

June 13, 2013

Well this just isn’t working:

I know the intent, but it just isn’t working.

It was done better here:

and here:

With the Lamont & Steele ads the tone is fun and light, the Gomez ad almost feels angry to me. There’s a tone deaf quality here, like they can’t hear what they’re how loud they’re shouting.

On top of that, they cram too many details into the tail end of the ad. Isn’t it enough to say, “Ed Markey is everything that’s wrong with congress…” and leave that as the message?

Beware your friends

April 9, 2013

If you longed for the good old day of negative advertising.

If you’ve said gosh they don’t make ’em like they used to….

Then this negative ad attacking Christine Quinn in the New York Mayor’s race is for you.

Gosh, from the music the effects to the overbearing narrator, this ad felt like it should be running in the 90’s. Negative ads have come a long since then, using more pointed attacks, humor, and just generally not being so overwrought with the negativity. Does the ad have some good points to make, it sure seemed like it. The quotes were all good and tough, but instead of letting the evidence speak for itself, the creators of this ad tried really hard to let you know, these were bad things (as if we couldn’t tell for ourselves).

The problem is that there’s no room for the viewer in an ad like this. They’re telling instead of showing, they’re making statements instead of asking the question. It’s a classic blunder, the first of which is never get in a land war in SE Asia, and the second is never go up against a Scillian with death on the line.

The ultimate question then is this: Does this ad help or hurt? How could it hurt? As an outside group, coming in attacking the only woman in the race, does it seem too mean spirited? Are they injecting important information into the race or are they beating up on Quinn? Again, I don’t question the validaty of their attack, just the tone. The ad is tone deaf. Better to give the quotes straight then ask the question. (Shaking my head).It’s clear the people making it hated Quinn, but it’s too clear, it seems personal, like they want New Yorkers to hate Quinn as much as they do.

To the extent that this ad sticks and the information gets through it’ll be effective. To the extend that it is seen as too negative or just plain mean spirited, it’ll backfire.


Four for Friday: The Subtle and the petty

March 30, 2012

Been traveling this week for work, so it’s been tough to post. Today is a hodgepodge of ads, I came across this week.

First up Chrysler’s followup to “Halftime in America”:

I thought the ad did a great job of re-framing the halftime in America message that started with Clint Eastwood at the Super Bowl. If that ad was a 50,000 ft view, this one is closer to ground level. It tells the story, without telling the story, if you know what I mean. I just read this list of writing tips from the great screenwriter Billy Wilder. The two rules that seem to apply here are:

5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.


7. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.

This ad is very subtle, it never reveals the subtext, and I think it’s better for it.

The next ad up was sent to me by a friend:

I like the tone of the ad, and I think it does a nifty job of making it’s political points without sounding (or looking) too political. The ad is well shot too, with lots of pretty pictures. It makes something that could have been dry interesting, so it scores points there too.

My only objection to the ad, is the whole “Your friend Ben” theme.  Maybe it’s how folks already see Cardin, but it feels a little forced. I guess it’s better than a more traditional, “that’s because Ben Cardin cares…” or “Ben Cardin is on our side…” line, but not sure I buy it, in an ad that I generally buy.

Alright, ad number three comes from the Republicans:

Don’t love this ad/video for a number of reasons:

1. Not sure how folks will feel about using audio from the Supreme Court. Usually the Supreme court is above politics, pulling in Lawyer’s arguments seems debasing somehow, but maybe that’s just me.

2. The quote feels lacking context. So, the lawyer had a brain fart, but does that make healthcare a tough sell? Not sure I get the connection? Maybe if we heard a question asking him to describe what the health care law does or some other reference, but right now it just seems like a guy who lost his train of thought.

3. Who cares? I mean, yes we ought to care about health care, but what I mean is, hitting Obama for health care now seems like hitting Clinton for having affairs, haven’t we played this out already?

Maybe as an ad that gets the base angry this works.  The fact that it only had 400 hits on youtube (and I’ve watched it twice), makes me think it’s pretty ineffective.

Finally, an ad that’s about as simple a repines as they come. In one of those petty (and dumb) political moves, opponents of Jose Hernandez are asking a judge to stop him from describing himself as an Astronaut. 

Hernandez answers quite eloquently in this one minute long video:

Is there a more clear example of show don’t tell? This response is a also a great example of political aikido. Whatever a judge decides, the fact that opponents are arguing he’s not an astronaut, this video response will cement the fact that he did indeed fly in space. At once a response like this makes the opponents seem small minded and Jose Hernandez never has to break message to do it, that sounds like a win in my book.

Being in Harmony

January 5, 2011

Been a long time between posts, part of that is the season, part of that is the lack of things to post about, part of that is I’ve moved a lot of quick hits over to Twitter, where I usually post a few times a week if not a day.

What would I do without Rahm?  Wait for superbowl ads I guess. Another ad for the former congressman, turned White House chief of staff, turned candidate for Chicago Mayor.

Pretty standard stuff, a couple of things jumped out at me:

  • It was a contrast in tones, the music and images serve to contrast a pretty tough on crime message. It seems like a deliberate effort to ‘tone’ down the image of Rahm as a firebrand, but allow him to appear tough and passionate without the histrionics. The danger is if this isn’t the real Rahm, that the effort appears as manipulative.  I don’t think that is the case, but it is something I’d worry about.
  • The line “These gangbanger… don’t own the streets…” is at once awkward and power.  Don’t hear the word gangbangers tossed around in elections too much these days.
  • Mentioning Clinton, the entire ad seems aimed at lower income and minority communities where the former President is still extremely popular.  Is this the campaign’s attempt to hold off the challenge of Carol Mosely Braun?
  • The choice of crime is an interested one, and a further one that makes me think this spot is targeted to a particular audience. Even so, there must have been some strong polling out there because crime is a particularly rare issue these days (terrorism yes, street crime not so much).

So overall this ad is alright, doesn’t stand out, and isn’t as good as the first one which is the best of the bunch.  It appears to be serving a tactical purpose, but at least at seems to be matching the tone of the others even when taking on an issue that often has a harsher tone than they’ve shown so far.


October 13, 2009

I just finished writing about Daggett and his need to change the tone of his ads, and I saw a new health care ad this morning, and thought it was a good opportunity to write more generally about tone.

Maybe I should start with I read about this ad this morning first.  From the National Journal’s Morning Wake-up e-mail: “Americans United for Change is up with a TV ad on DC cable, arguing insurance execs. “are scared of competition…”  Wow, I thought that sounds like a good message, scared of competition, that could work.

Then I watched the ad:

Um, uh.  That’s disappointing, right?  I tried to think about why it was so disappointing and it comes down to tone.

Baseball and insurance companies? Huh?  Maybe the makers of the ad thought they’d hook me with a curious question, instead, it only seemed to minimize their story. Baseball, why are we dragging baseball into this?  It’s confusing and dumb.  It’s too cute and not funny enough to be funny.    The Blacksox scandal? What are they talking about.  And the images?  Sigh….

They have a real message to drive home here, insurance companies are scared of competition from the government. Why are they so scared?  If they’re doing such a great job (and the government is going to do such a crappy job so goes their allies comments), why should they care about a public option?  They should mop the floor with those guys.

Tone is such a subtle thing it helps us to frame the story the ad is trying to tell.  It’s something viewers pick up on from the sound of the narrator, the music, the images, it’s implied rather then spoken.  The baseball music, the flat images don’t imply the seriousness of the message.  Now you can contrast the tone with the message (also called being ironic), a serious message can be delivered in a comedic tone and when done well, it can be very effective.  But being funny is hard, just ask Steve Martin, it takes work.

Someone thought this was a good idea, but to me it looks like an ad that never worked on the script, and if it doesn’t work on the page, it’s unlikely it’ll work on the screen.

Like Chris Daggett, who I talked about earlier, it’s a good message ruined by the poor choice of tone.

P.S. I apologize for any grammatical errors, my copy editor (my wife) is away for a couple weeks.  Have I ever mentioned that I had to take remedial English in both High School and College?

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.

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