Just finished a great book Storybranding The book echoes a lot of concepts I discuss here on the blog, like the need for emotional connection, storytelling and authenticity. One idea it discusses is the difference between the outer layer of a brand and the inner layer. The out layer of a brand is the how -- a better mousetrap, a easier to use computer, a new kind of laundry soap, the inner layer represents the why -- the values and rationale for why a brand, company, politician does what they do. I've been thinking a lot about these ideas in recent days, especially in light of Santorum's rise and Romney's lack of traction. For simplicity sake, Romney is running for President, Santorum is running to restore American values (or something like that) -- which message is more powerful. You don't need to be a conservative to show (not tell) the values behind what you're doing. A good campaign is able to "show" it's values in everything it does.
I bring up these thoughts in light of this first commercial from Bill Faison, running for Governor North Carolina.
My first question after watching the ad is, who is this guy? I assume most of North Carolina really doesn't know Faison, so they're trying to build his profile. Ok, I get that, but other than name id, what do you know about Faison? Really, do you have any sense of who he is, why he's running? The ad is filled with cliches: "Get North Carolina Moving," "Working together." Cliches are fine because they're shorthand, but you start throwing them around and they start to become meaningless.
The ad starts with "A New Leader" and he's "fighting for the little guy" -- either one of those ideas (both cliche) would make a fine theme to introduce this guy to voters. But tossed in here together with getting the state "back to work" and "world class schools" (more cliche), they're near meaningless. I talked recently about kitchen sink ads, and while this one doesn't quite rise to that class, it has so many different ideas, that it's just more blah, blah, blah.
After 30 seconds, I have no idea who this guy is, I have no connection to him. What's going to happen after 1000 points? As I've drilled my kids over and over, anything times zero equals zero, 10,000,000,000 x 0 = 0.
The point here isn't to rip on one ad or make Bill Faison question his choice of consultant, the point is something bigger actually. Here's your chance to introduce your candidate statewide, what's the walk away? What the theme that you want them to connect to the candidate? The theme doesn't have to be in the text, it could be the subtext. (The subtext in this ad seems to be Bill Faison is very soft spoken.) But, they need a theme and idea. I love fighting for the little guy, hell, we all feel like little guys these days with the bad economy, but here its nothing more than a throwaway line, that we're told and expected to believed. How much better would it have been to have shown us. As a lawyer, he fought for regular people injured by medical negligence and big corporations (I just got that from his wikipedia page).
This kind of ad makes me angry, because it's shot fine, and it's predictably standard that no one will call it out for being the worst kind of tripe. Forget mudslinging and negative ads, these re the ads that destroy our faith in politicians and make us increasingly cynical about the political process, forget ineffective, this ad is guilty of a far worse crime.