A classic line from the classic movie "Love at First Bite." No idea if it still holds up, but when I was 10 it was really funny. That was a long way to introduce a quick post. I can across this video the other day: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtGSXMuWMR4&feature=player_embedded]
It's a brillant parody of genre, in this case the news genre. I started thinking about the gimmicks, tricks, & shortcuts we use in political ads -- especially the negative ads: Grainy B&W footage of your opponent, the music, the headlines in negative (white text on black copy -- scary).
Genre is a funny thing because those conventions are helpful, they're a shorthand, they let people know what to expect, what's coming, they save time (and words) by communicating a lot in a simple image or sound. But genre is also a trap, it's so easy, and readily recognizable that it can quickly become cliche.
Again cliche can be helpful sign to folks, and as Magnum P.I. once said, "Cliches are cliches because they're true." When I write, I try to be careful about not using cliche's, or at least if I use them I hope they're just a place holder for a more original construction.
It's the same thing with ads, but still cliche's are so damned easy and so damned safe, pre-approved if you will.
But the problem is exactly that, cliche is familiar your audience doesn't have to pay attention or the cliche has lost its meaning after having been used, and used, and over used again and again and again. You can use cliche to surprise your viewer, to break their guessing machine, as the Heath brothers say in their wonderful book, "Made to stick," and get their attention.
Like Ned Lamont and the messy desk or this ad from Michael Steele:
The next time you find yourself falling into cliche think is there a non-cliche way to write this line, film this shot, bring up this graphic. Sometimes the cliche is the easiest, most efficient way, but we should all try harder.
It's a cliche to end a piece on cliche with a cliche, so I'll spare you that cliche at least.