Friday, October 22, 2010

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL ADS

I happen to love watching, reading and listening to political ads.  I remember during the '08 election I was in the Carolinas and was always late for supper watching the local ads and non-canned congressional ads.  I've produced a few good ones and a few not-so-good ones.  The only one I've ever done that won an award was in a campaign where my candidate got swamped.  The operation was a success but the patient died.

A few default propositions, developed over time:

Very seldom is the candidate the most attractive option for thirty seconds of TV.  Limit the talking head, suitable for mounting, and show other relevant stuff.  Five or six seconds will usually do it.

Nose hair trimmers are very useful tools in preparing for a TV shoot.

If your audio from TV is the same as your radio, your radio copy is weak, your TV video is weak or both of the above.  TV sound is supposed to supplement the video, not stand alone. 

I am in mourning for 60 second radio spots.  A candidate can do a lot of education early in a campaign with a good 60.

I have never understood why producers work so hard to make female candidates look like they are ready for a knife fight.  An otherwise attractive woman doesn't have to look or act like GI Joe to espouse her beliefs effectively.

A montage or slideshow of still pictures can really make a good TV ad, with the proper voice-over.  I remember a congressional race where the outsider beat the insider with a video scrapbook of closed plants.

There are those who say that radio has lost its effectiveness because so many people listen to satellite, pound in their Ipods or talk on the phone.  I am not one of them.  The trick is figuring out how radio gets you in touch with registered voters or, better yet, likely voters.  Arbitrons tell you "how many" but you have to drill down for the "who are they?"

In the really, really bad category, I'd place Asher and Munzlinger.

In the really, really good category, I'd place the Schilling Intro ad.

In the (I just made this one up) Best CounterPuncher category, I'd put Wes Shoemeyer.  This guy's first effort out of the box is always generic and eminently foregettable.  He lives to be attacked so he can deftly counterpunch.  His media guys must be ju-jitsu trained to use the other guy's momentum against him.

Probably 80% of local elections are decided before the campaign money is spent.  They are decided by things like incumbency, prior elective office, political demographics of a district and the flavor at the top of both tickets (in presidential years).  The ones where advertising makes a difference and moves undecideds are fascinating things to watch.  When Verne Hagstrom won by 27 votes, it is impossible to say the pictures of the holes in the water plant and the police cars up on blocks did not play into Candidate Hagstrom's "capital planning" campaign.  When Cawthorn beat Clayton in the Special Senate Election, the determinant was not the skill of the ads, it was their timing.  Each candidate was a relative stranger in the other side of the Senate district.  Cawthorn strenuously introduced himself during the Christmas season while a lot of people were home watching TV.  Nobody thought Cawthorn would intrude on people's Holidays, but he did.  Clayton then put out some catch-up introductory ads but, by that time, Cawthorn had moved on to attacking Clayton.  Ironically, a lot of people now think the formula for a winning ad over there is "a gun and a dog."  That was never the point.  The winning point was define your opponent in relation to yourself (in this case quite unfairly) early.   

Blunt may win the Senate Seat in Missouri but I sure don't get the point of his TV campaign.  "Vote for me because I'm not her..(meaning Pelosi, not Carnahan).

Gosh, just think:  In a week it'll all be over and anyone looking for strategy will have to watch College Football.

   

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