I'll take a story with that burrito

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUtnas5ScSE This Chipotle video is the latest video to "go viral" -- as of this writing it has over four million hits.

It's worth watching too full of pathos and top notch storytelling (the animation is pretty clutch too, from the folks who create Morris Lessmore and his Flying Book & Numberlys). The video is three minutes long, and I've already watched it four or five times. Heck, the video isn't even for the Chipotle per se, but a trailer for their new game!

I'm not going to break down all the reasons why I think this is a great video, either you get it or you don't. But I do think there are some important lessons you can learn from this video when thinking about your videos or ads:

1. Story matters. They build a compelling story that's not about the brand, but is precisely about what the brand stands for. A story that shows you their values.

2. Emotions matter. Related to that first lesson, this story is right on-emotion. Imagine a video that had the same message, but maybe it was a narrator with beautiful shots of fresh produce or some other genre appropriate video. It might get the message across, but would anyone watch? And more to the point would anyone remember or believe it?

3. Production Values Matter. Maybe the most important point I could make here.  We all have had clients ask us to produce a viral video, and when we ask how much they want to spend, the amount is usually less than you'd spend on an I-Pad.

Chipotle did fall into that trap. They didn't say well, it's only for the web, they produced a top-notch, story with top-notch production values, and I'm guessing they spent more than some people spend on their tv ads.

4. Your story matters. Chipotle is telling your their story (anti-corporate, fresh food, maybe even anti-establishment), but what they're trying to do is resonate with your story? Are you anti-corporate, believe in fresh food, do you want to be a conformist your whole life? By reflecting your story in theirs, the create believers, they create fans. I'll take 1 over 10 customers any day of the week.

I love seeing videos like this one. These ads and videos are why I write this blog. Chipotle could have fallen into a trap -- hey, we're just selling burritos, so let's give 'em a video about how great our burritos are. Instead they told a compelling story that resonates and creates fans, not bad for the price of a burrito.



Always aim higher

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgC84kDhWl4] A header like, "If you have a heart, this Wrigley gum commercial will make you cry," set a pretty high bar, but also sets off my ok, I'm gonna call that bluff response. Well, the stupid fricking ad did indeed make me cry or the room got incredibly dusty as it climaxed.

Is the gum a bit of a macguffin here? Sure, it could have been anything, but staking out that space, telling an emotional story about a parent and a child, about sharing something in good times and bad, well that's powerful. It's too easy to say, well it's just gum, we should talk about it's flavor or it's ability to solve a problem. Like this crappy gum ad I saw last night:


The Wrigley commercial for Extra gum goes to a higher place on the hierarchy -- other gums are minty or clean your mouth, this gum you share and experience, this gum is about love and connection.

The downside here is that I'm not sure this brand of gum has enough of a pre-exisitng space in my brain to make an impression (what's the brand name again). So an ad like this one for a brand that doesn't have a position needs repetition in other mediums, it has to tell this same story of sharing again and again in a myriad of different ways (what about directions for making those Origami birds on the inside of each package or a Web site about creating your Wrigley moment).

Still it's a great ad, and a good reminder that it's not about the function of the product, but something more.

Never let 'em off the hook

Not sure why I wanted to show it, but my sone just did a report for school on change agents, and he got Jackie Robinson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzf1xykHSUc

You know I wanted to like this ad a lot more than I did. I love the opening line, "Here's to first...," and I also love the New Era (they sell hats you know) tag, "Fly your own flag."

I wanted to like this ad, in many ways it reminded of this Apple ad:


But where the Apple ad moved and inspired me, the New Era ad despite being well shot left me flat. Maybe it's because it's seems to be trying too hard, it had me on the hook at the beginning but then it loses. Somehow it feels like New Era doesn't really have a point to make, the ad's not really about being first nor about Flying your own flag. Where the Apple ad is dedicated to the "Think Different" proposition. What's my walk away from the New Era ad? What am I supposed to feel? The ad doesn't sufficiently guide me there and seeing the sign of Jackie Robinson park at the end feels less like a payoff and more like a cheat.

A different kind of gimmick

Wasn't planning on writing about this ad, but I'm the middle of a great book, "Winning the Story Wars," and it helped me focus my thoughts about the ad in a way that I thought was helpful: http://youtu.be/qPUxHeIsYLc

I write a lot about gimmicks -- ads that use a trick or device to get attention. When these ads work, the gimmick is on-emotion and in tune with the authentic story of the brand (or candidate).  When they don't work, it's often because the gimmick is just spitting on the table -- it's only about getting attention, and the emotional connection to the brand or message is non-existant.

This Cicilline ad uses a different kind of gimmick. It wasn't clear to me until I read this from "Winning the Story Wars":

The Trial of Gimmickry

SIN: Are you trying to make a quick emotional connection by putting all your eggs in the basket of nonsensical humor or high-intensity emotion?

SUCCESS: Or are you building emotional affinity around shared values – layering humor and emotional intensity on top of this solid foundation?

My first thought about the Cicilline ad (really, my second thought, my first thought was that the footage looks kinda bad) was that it didn't earn the emotion it was seeking -- telling stories about Cicilline coming to the aid of Rhode Islanders.  There were too many stories, and somehow they don't resonate.  Reading the quote from Story Wars, it's obvious to me now, this is another type of gimmick ad, though less obvious the the ones that rely on humor or some conceit. And to put it in the Story Wars framework, this ad is trying for high intensity emotion, but it's not built on any foundation.

Look, I'm sure he helped all those people, and that's great, but that's his job isn't it?  What makes these cases special or unique? Is Cicilline the kind of guy who goes out of his way to help people? Or is he an unpopular congressman, trying to bolster his image?

In some ways these ads show disrespect for the viewers. Look, all advertising is manipulative, but hopefully, it offers something more than the manipulation. The two olympic ads I showed yesterday earned their moment, when it gets dusty at the end of the Proctor and Gamble ad, it had worked to get me the viewer there, to get me invested in the story.

This ad, just those an old woman, a vet, a cancer survivor out there, trying to manipulate me without really having to try, it's just going through the motions. They don't invest in their story or characters, so I don't invest my emotions in the spot. I've never thought of this emotional manipulation as a gimmick, but it is, and it fails big time here.

Emotion Wins

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0qZYqdsYAg&feature=player_embedded This is a Budweiser ad airing in Canada for the Super Bowl. I just have to say it's a shame it's not airing in the states, because it just might be the best beer commercial (or branding) I've seen. Not sure if Bud thinks Canadians are more cultured than Americans or just less interested in kicks to the groin or scantily clad women, but I think this ad despite it's focus on hockey would be a winner in whatever market we it ran in.

Just because Americans don't love hockey because this ad is so powerful emotionally it just plain works. Any weekend athlete can appreciate what those players felt playing that game under those circumstances.

It tells a great story about Bud too, it speaks to their values, and who their beer is for. You can't do better than that.

Dueling Ads Hawaii

Two strange ads up in the Hawaii Democratic Primary... http://youtu.be/FZwJyzWrjJo


So Ed Case has regular folks saying they're going to vote for him then thanks voters for thinking about their choice.  I can't put my finger on it, but there's something off about the ad. It's shot in a documentary style (shaky camera moves that hint at capturing real life), but the people in it feel somewhat staged. Were they given lines to read or were the lines authentic? I can't tell, I wonder if voters will be able to tell.  A third party validator is only as believable as they're credible.  I don't find these people particularly credible, but maybe that's me.

A couple other choices I question: 1. The lack of music leaves the spot feeling rather flat, there's no emotion too it, and that comes off in the delivery of the lines. 2. If these are real people, why not identify them?  Identifying people who are speaking helps because it makes them seem more credible, they're real people, it's not just some mechanic in an ad, but John Doe who happens to be a mechanic.

One element of the ad I do like is the frame of a choice. Ed Case, by acknowledging people have a choice (maybe a hard one for them) comes off as empathetic and understanding -- maybe he gets it.

Mazie Hirono's ad on the other hand decides to turn back the clock and run like it's 2008 or 2006 or any other even numbered year George W Bush was president. Really are we still running against Bush policies?  I know it's a Democratic primary, but somehow this ad seems out of step or at least out of date. I'm sure there must have been some polling on this (these) issue, but it just comes off as odd to me.  (And, yes, I get she's trying to frame her Democratic credentials against the more conservative Ed Case, but it's still feels like a throwback.) Do Democrats have to run against Bush to prove their liberal? When does that stop?

Also what's with the two "regular" people saying her name, what's the deal with that? They know her name? I kept waiting for them to come back and say something or anything more, it just seemed like a dangled promise that there was something else there.

So who wins this round? I'm not sure. Both ads strike me as slightly weird. Hirono's ad has higher production values and music, but it's about as cliche as it gets stylistically, there's nothing interesting about it. Ed Case has a odd mockmentary flavor and is flat, but I think probably works slightly better despite it's lack of credibility.

Cats and Dogs, Coke and Pepsi

I know I've said it before, but I love it when consumer brands go negative. First, it serves as an important signal to people who claim only political ads play in the mud and bemoan negative ads, that negative ads are all around us. Secondly, it's usually an interesting to see the approach that consumer brands take as they go after each other -- often to less effect than negative political ads. Here are two ads for Pepsi going directly after Coke:



What I find interesting about the approach of these ads is that they aren't taking on Coke on the "issues" or the "facts." There is no price comparison or taste comparison here, these ads are making a purely emotional appeal.  "Summer time is pepsi time."

I just started reading a promising book, "Storytelling: Branding in Practice," and the author makes the following point, which puts the Pepsi approach into an eye opening context:

"The brand story gradually becomes synonymous with how we define ourselves as individuals and the products become the symbols that we use to tell the story our ourselves." 

These pepsi ads are trying to tell a story about the brand that is Pepsi.

Pepsi = fun, partying, summer, hip. If you identify with those qualities or want to identify with those qualities, then you ought to be drinking Pepsi, just like Santa and our friend the polar bear. Pepsi goes after Coke by directly trying to redefine their own symbols (Santa and the polar bear), by showing them crossing the line for Pepsi it makes it ok for "you" to cross that line too, it also suggests that coke is on the other side of the hip/fun/cool line.

What does Summer represent? A break from school or responsibilities, a time to let lose, have an adventure, to live life. If you want to embody those qualities drink Pepsi,  or maybe more poignantly if you think you're a fun, hip, cool person and want others to see you that way, you better be drinking Pepsi.

While I appreciate the jab at Coke in this way, and I'm sure it has created a lot of buzz, I'm not sure if it's an effective attack. Much like the McCain "Celebrity Ad" reinforced Obama's message as it sought to undermine it, and was ultimately ineffective for that reason, these ads seek to subvert the strength of it's opponent, but I think it actually reinforces it. Sure Santa and the Polar Bear switch to Pepsi, but we all know they belong to Coke, and frankly the execution of the ads, doesn't really make me (though maybe the younger viewers it was intended to reach have a different reaction) believe the switch. It feels all too forced and contrived.

Bang for your buck

Crossroads GPS is up with a new ad attacking Obama on the economy.  $20 million dollars a year and a half before the elections is a lot of money to spend.  So I figured their ad would be worth a look: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvnAE8olUxU&feature=player_embedded]

Wow. $20 million dollars and you get an ad that starts "These are the facts..." that was the line of the first ad I had to write all by myself (actually it went "The facts" just to be historically accurate) and that was 11 years ago.

I find this ad less than compelling.  In some ways it misses what's a trademark of of most conservative advertising -- emotion. There's no vitriol here, no anger, well, no nothing... Even the facts are kinda boring, and while they try to contrast "the facts" with Obama's statements, not sure the juxtaposition works.

Now I have a friend, who's opinion I respect, who thinks it doesn't matter how good or bad the ad is. His reasoning is $20m is a lot of money focusing people on Obama and the dismal economy, and I think he has a point..., but still come on, was this really the best they could do?

I guess if you hate Obama already this'll get you more angry, but if you're on the fence, is this going to do anything? I don't think so.... People already know they economy stinks, and they've put it into their Obama calculation.  Is this ad about the debt ceiling vote? I'm not sure, but this ad just feels kinda mushy to me, it may be on-message, but it's not on-emotion. It doesn't really make me angry, it doesn't push any emotional hot buttons or at least doesn't push them in an effective way (I suppose the Obama "shovel ready" line is supposed to make him seem out of touch, but it feels oddly out of context the way it's presented here).

$20 million is a lot to spend, but to me this is just another example of spending a lot of money to air something, when they should spend more than $12k to produce the ad.

The first videos of 2012 Presidential election

So we have the first announced candidate of 2012. Want to guess who?  No not him, not him, not her, not him... It's the one and only President Barak Obama. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-VZLvVF1FQ]

This video feels a little like the Time Magazine person of the Year, when the cover was a mirror, the person of the year is... YOU! Yeah, how'd that go over for Time? Ok, that's a little rough. But this video is missing something (and I'm not talking about the President --  interesting, he doesn't make an appearance in the video kicking off his campaign)..., not sure what it is. But it's not exactly, what's the word, compelling.  It's too early for a sense of urgency, I get that, but this feels somewhat somnolent (SAT word of the day, had to look it up).  Maybe they don't want to invoke the passion of 2008 because they're scare it can't measure up, maybe they think it's too early, maybe there's some reason I'm not clever enough to guess, but in any case, there's nothing here that grabs me, I'd be interested to hear what true believers feel.

This video kinda leaves me missing the Tim Pawlenty Michael Bay themed videos which is something I never thought I'd say. Maybe we can split the difference going forward?

Here's an Obama parody video


I liked the "Morning in America" feel to the open and how it seemed like an Obama ad at first, unfortunately, the rest of the video is less parody and more political rhetoric. There are probably a lot of things you can hit Obama for, playing golf, meeting with Paul McCartney and filling in an NCAA bracket seem petty and mean spirited, not funny. And I found it slightly disingenuous to use Tea Party protests as a sign that Obama is dividing us (as opposed to said Tea Partiers and radical governors taking away the rights of workers).  Now, maybe this video wasn't intended for me (it certainly wasn't), but I doubt it would work with someone in the middle, maybe an independent voter who voted for for Obama in 2008, but voter Republican in the last election.

Even the Unicorn (which I liked) at the end felt a little like sour grapes. Is there an argument to be made that Obama sold America a bill of goods and hasn't delivered, without a doubt (I think even some Democrats feel that way). Did this ad make that case? Not even close, it could have used the parody to make an unexpected case, to engage independents and even Democrats before springing it's trap. By going for the low hanging partisan fruit they missed the juicer bits.

It's the story stupid...

Super bowl ads. Everyone's talking about 'em. On twitter, I linked to this article, "Super Bowl TV Spots (Versus All The Rest of the Year)." The gist was basically, yeah Super Bowl ads have a larger audience, but the quality of our work shouldn't depend on the audience that's going to see it. It's summed up with, "Just seems to me that a TV spot is a TV spot. TV, radio, any media buy is a public appearance for which we ought to put on our Sunday best, no matter how large our congregation is." Super Bowl ads are known for their spectacle, for their over the top quality, but the ads that I always seem to like are the same ones I like the rest of the year, it's the ones that tell a story and connect with me emotionally.  Seriously which ads to do you remember over the years?

Ad Age just did an all-time Super Bowl ad poll, it came down to Apple's 1984 spot and Coke's Mean Joe Greene ad, according the reader's poll Mean Joe Greene crushed Apple's ad.



(Here's a link to all the ads polled: My favorites NFL "Crazy" & Reebok "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker," Monster, "When I grow up," and EDS "Herding Cats"-- though it's a little too much of a gimmick, I find it amusing).

I've never understood the appeal of the 1984 ad, though of the spectacle ads it does have a compelling narrative and emotional element (the drive to break free from Big Brother). But the Mean Joe ad, come on? Just watching it now, I was almost in tears. "Hey kid, catch..."

That brings us to this year's ads which has the usual blend of stupid beer ads that aren't funny the other 364 days of the year, the offensive -- Groupon, the unremarkable..., can't remember any of those, and the spectacle -- Coke & Audi, which were all right, but will probably fall into the unremarkable category before too long.

So which ads did I think were the best. To me one stood out:


I don't know if this ad was targeted to parent's but it sure felt real to me. Another company might have gone for over the top, might have tried to make it funnier by making it more absurd, and they would have lost the reality of the moment. Absurd is fine if it's real, but when it becomes surreal, it needs some element to ground it back to reality.  This ad feels so true to life to me, and it's so well executed, down to the music, the way the child rushes past his dad at the end, and the surprised reaction at the end.

Does an ad like this sell cars? I would say yes. It's clever and honest, and somehow sympathetic, and I believe it makes VW seem clever, honest and sympathetic. They could have shown the car racing around corners, but that wouldn't hook me the way this ad does. That's the power of emotion.


Along those lines the other ad that caught my attention was the Eminem Chrysler ad. A paean to Detroit (and America frankly), I think it's a powerful ad, that appeals to that underdog spirit in all of us. I love the script, again eschewing talking about the car, the car is a symbol for something more powerful, and if you want to connect with that story, if you want that story to become your story, buying the car is a way of broadcasting that to the world.  I love the end tag, "Imported from Detroit," simply brilliant.

Here's my problem with it, do you need Eminem in it? Why not have him narrate the entire spot? The spot is great for 3/4 then it falls apart at the end. Why does he get out of the car? What's the deal with choir?  It's one of those commercials that had me, then loses me at the end. Don't get me wrong it's better than 90% of the car commercials out there because of the script and the music, but it ends up falling flat at the end.  Too bad.

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the negative ads of the night.... What, wait you missed them?

How about this one:


The ad is obvious swipe at Apple from the 1984 reference to the white ear buds. I find the interesting, but not credible. The ad is trying to turn Apple from the rebel fighting Big Brother into Big Brother. But ultimately I'm not sure that I believe the argument coming from Motorola. I'm not sure what people think of Motorola, but rebel isn't really one of the first ten themes that come to my mind.  So ultimately while I like the message aikido going on here, I'm not sure it can be successful without some other validation.

The other spot that I recall going negative was this one:


A lot of spectacle, pretty funny and well executed, but ultimately it felt like they were too clever. Audi is trying to be luxury for those who don't want luxury or something like that. That might be the right position for them, and this ad communicates it well, but there's not emotional component to it other than the basic message. Compare this ad to the Chrysler ad or the VW ad, which one moves you more?

Still, it's good to see brands going after each other at the Super Bowl, gets me excited for 2012.

Super Bowl ads remind me of big Hollywood blockbusters, full of sound and fury but ultimately as forgettable as Transformers or X-Men. The best blockbusters, like the best ads are the ones that focus the sound and fury in service of an emotion and a message. The best way to do that is to tell a story. The best ad this year was probably the least expensive to shoot, the same thing was true of my favorite ad from last year.  You can be simple and powerful if you focus on story and emotion instead of spectacle and being clever.

Now what?

Things will be slowing down on the blog, I'll still be posting as much as I can as I see things that are relevant. This weekend, I did come across this article in Fast Company about Neuromarketing political ads. Neuromarketing is, well as the article points out there is some debate about what it actually entails.  To my mind, it basically means looking at physical reactions (brain scans or non-voluntary physical responses like public dilation) to determine underlying emotional states.

There's obviously something very intriguing about this research.  Scientific studies have often shown, most people are not very good about describing why they're feeling what they're feeling. They often give rationale's cloaked as rational reasons.  I also think the focus on emotion over logic is a step in the right direction for political advertising.

On the other hand it all feels like snake oil to me -- psuedo-science at his best.  A physiological response is just that, you still have to interpret it.  Maybe more importantly, the person having the response also has to interpret the response based on the filters they've collected in the course of their life.  Neuromarketing seems like a silver bullet, trying to quantify what is not quantifiable (like this scene from "Dead Poet's Society").

Who remembers New Coke? It was one of the most tested product roll outs of all time, it surpassed classic Coke in taste tests, and when it was introduced to the public...? Well, it failed the only test that really matters.  A friend of mine said of focus grouping spots, who are you going to trust, the consultant who you're paying a lot of cash for their expertise or the person you're paying with $20, a diet coke and a ham sandwich.

I think there is a role for testing ideas, concepts, messages, but not executions. The familiar, the tried the true, the boring and same old will always win over the cutting edge, the interesting, and the novel.  People will tell you they want logic, when they're longing to be touched emotionally.

Back to Neuromarketing, here are the spots they looked at in the article with my brief thoughts (I've already written about most of them):


This spot was the highest testing in the sample.  The tester points to the constitution and the pledge of allegiance as "making it pop."  I would say it's an interesting idea, that's not executed very well, and comes off as rather flat.  The fact that it tested well, makes me doubt the effectiveness of the test.


I've already described this two minute spot as one of the best of the year. The test and I agree it feels authentic and real.


I thought this commercial was a little creepy, but to the extent that Ted Stevens' endorsement carried weight after his death, I thought it would be effective (as long as you could put the fact he was dead behind you).


I've reviewed this spot as well.  Good commercial that feels authentic to Hickenlooper (but wouldn't necessarily work with someone else). I agree with the analysis that viewers connect with Hickenlooper's disgust for negative ads, though not sure you need a brain scan to tell you that. Also which ad is stronger this ad or the West ad that started off the analysis?

Now the ads viewers did not like so much:


This ad has been talked to death.  Good ad? Bad ad? Effective? Is it just a coincidence that the worst testing ads were negative/attack ads?  Or do negative ads routinely test worse?

The final ad also negative used the fake Morgan Freeman voice over:


Again do negative ads get a bigger neurological response? Is that what makes them more effective? Did folks hate this ad because they believed the Morgan Freeman voice over was fake? Or did they hate it because other than the Morgan Freeman voice over and the restrained patriotic music, the script is so hack and generic that it's almost cliche?

Neuromarkerting -- new tool on the cutting edge of political advertising? Or pseduo-science?

Definitely something I plan to learn more about this off-season.

Final Push Nevada

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9EH4WzjLII&feature=player_embedded] Harry Reid's final ad (maybe according to Plum Line) isn't about Harry Reid at all, but rather is all about Sharron Angle's world. Of the Reid  ads I've seen this one is the most effective. They're still cramming a lot in there, and the prisoner massage stuff is a little out of the blue, but it's really the first ad from Reid that really uses emotion to drive the message rather than logic.  This ad doesn't tell you how to feel (you should be scared of crazy Sharron Angle), it just presents the elements of the argument to the viewer which I believe is a better/stronger way to go.  It leaves room for viewers to fill in the last step for themselves.

Don't know if the design elements work (the colorized images and the grid -- I think it's a grid), but the ad works, not a great, but a good ending salvo.

And it's much better than what the DSCC put up on Reid's behalf.  First there was this one:


The good news: I think it's smart to face up to voter's anger, that's the only reason someone like Angle is this close to becoming a US Senator.  I would have liked to see more ads that acknowledge that fact, reflect it back to voters.   The bad news, I find it insulting when the narrator says, "Imagine how angry you'll be when Sharron Angle.." and "Work that anger out in the ring cause voting for Sharron Angle is only going to hurt yourself." Just as understanding as the opening language was, that language is patronizing and out of touch.

I find the kick boxing distracting, and I can't actually take in the information they're trying to present. Points for trying don't count for much in politics, I just think they got it wrong here, the ad ultimately feels tone deaf.


The followup to kickboxer, references the same line at the top and has a better transition (not as insulting is better).  This ad almost feels like an acknowledgement that the first one was a mistake.  It's defiantly better, but suffer from the same problem as most of the anti-Angle ads do, the ad feels jammed packed even though they're only talking about jobs and social security.  Maybe it's the design of the ad, but I find it hard to focus on one thing, I had to watch it three times just to write this post (it felt like seven issues in there).

Knowing that voters are angry, the ads are trying to make the race about Angle, will that be enough on election day to keep Angle from 50%?

The final push

We're entering that time when campaigns make that final push to the finish line.  One week left, what message do you want to leave with voters before they head into the voting booth (do folks still vote in booths).  Something positive about you? A vision for the future? The cost of electing the other guy?  In races where the margins are too large to make up, do you try to push your name id for the next campaign? These are tough choices to make, as the field of possibilities narrows to one last message, one last opportunity to make your case. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SymmAC3-4zs&feature=player_embedded]

Meg Whitman goes with the honesty approach, a one minute plea, that is part humble admission that folks might not like here, part bio, part political platitude, part vision statement.  I have to say I find this ad compelling, in the same way (even as a Democrat) I've found Whitman compelling.  There's an iconic part of her story, the family moving west, making her fortune at ebay, that speaks to me, and makes me like her.  I like the admission at the open that voters see this election as an unhappy choice, I appreciate her naming that elephant in the room, and trying to turn it around.  While I find the middle  section not as compelling (I'm not a politician), overall I like this ad, it is a simple expression of her and her candidacy.


Compare that with Harry Reid's last message to voters, which I find kind of all over the place.  This ad feels like it's trying to do too much.  Where the Whitman ad is all about an emotional appeal, this ad feels like its trying to get voters to vote in their own self interest, which frankly rarely works.  In some ways it's a fitting end to the Reid campaign which has always been about brute force and attrition tactics. There's nothing subtle about this ad, but I don't know if there's anything exceptional about it either.  At the end of the day, it leaves me cold, neither likely Angle any less nor liking Reid any more.

Angle takes a new angle

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mOkT2zrhgs&feature=player_embedded] [Update: The ad has been removed from youtube by a copyright claim. Here's a link to view it. ]

Two ads from Sharon Angle, this time though instead of fighting it out on Reid's record, they go for the emotional jugular that Reid is out of touch.  I really like this ad, I think it's well done. I do wonder who this woman is, guiding us through Reid's out of touchness, but that aside, I like its snarky tone, it's not over the top, doesn't overplay the attack, but still strikes home the message that Reid is out touch, in an interesting way.

In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen a political ad like this one.  It uses a spokeperson, not the candidate or a real person, I find the spokesperson likable which helps as well.

The strength of this ad is that it powerfully reframes the race as a contest between Harry Reid and "you" rather than a choice between Reid and Angle.  In some ways, that's what she's been trying to do the entire race, but hammering away with issues, she was making a rational case. The subtext of this ad is much more emotional and visceral, it could have easily slipped into the petty, but it toes the line.

Great ad.  One of my favorite of the year.


The other Angle ad tried to accomplish the same goal, it's pretty good, but has neither the charm nor the innovation of the first. If this was the only ad Angle was running on this issue, I would say it was effective, but not necessarily a game changer.


[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFQks2AEKNg] There are certain guildlines I try to think about in ad making:

Storytelling. Emotion over logic. Show don't tell.

Well, this ad has them all.  I showed it to my partner, afterwards his face was red and he was teary eyed, I had a similar reaction, that's from two jaded political ad professionals.

Great ad. I could talk about the execution or whatever, but in an ad like this, all that doesn't matter. All that matters, is that its an amazing story, that says something critical about the candidate's character, and it does so in an emotionally compelling way.

They say positive ads don't move numbers, well if any positive could move numbers it's this one.  Might be the best ad I've seen this year.

Not Typical, but on Target

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nAuJj7twMI&feature=player_embedded] Great MoveOn.org ad calling for Target boycott.

What do I like about it? It's everything that last ad I looked isn't:

It doesn't take the time to explain, "Target donated... Blah, blah, blah."

It aims straight to your emotions.

It certainly looks different (and sounds different, that jingle is very catchy).

It also starts with a mystery, what is this, what am I watch?  It brings the viewer into the experience, then rewards them with a catchy jingle.  Think of how different this could have gone. What if they used a standard script after that step up? Relied on information delivery instead of emotions?


[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdagMZWCo6w] This is about as standard a political ad as you can get.  Filled with all the cliche's:

"The Facts..."

"[Insert candidate's name here] voted..." Votes that show the opposite quality of the attack.

"And... [insert opponent's name here] voted to do..." Issues of the year, today it's shipping jobs overseas & privatizing social security.

Nothing wrong with it, expect it's totally forgettable, and it's too logical, or rather it's relying on logic rather emotion.

For comparison

I think this ad makes for a good comparison to the Melacon ad. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUSF_zEtW8w&feature=player_embedded]

Where that other ad was vanilla and left me cold, this ad is much warmer. Part of that is personality I bet, Blumenthal might just come off better on camera, but also look at the background, the way they're dressed.  I believe Blumenthal, even when he's spouting message.

I also like the end tag: "For You. First. Last. Always."

I think too often political ads are so focused on the issues, they're not focused on the emotion. I couldn't tell you what Blumenthal was talking about, but I do know I liked him better after watching the ad then before. Issues are usually a MacGuffin, they give the politician something to talk about, but really they should be a way to connect to voters.

Aloha Hawaii

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHikZmkjQ5U&feature=player_embedded] A real nice ad.  I like what Duke has to say, though not sure who he's supposed to be looking at when he's talking.  I like how the GC "Rise" stays on the screen the entire time, adding an element of curiosity to the spot. I like that they use imagery from Hawaii instead of being literal.

Great intro ad, one that uses issues & visuals to drive emotions.

Sometimes it's the simple things.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Duc2UINAw0] Really nice opening ad from Cal Cunningham.  I think the open is stronger than the end, with the bleached out shots of the flag and out the bus window, it's more evocative and emotionally powerful.

The line "Now I want to fight a different kind of war..." feels like an awkward transition to  the issues section of the spot, which I'm not sure they really needed.  They could referenced service again, and kept it more general, like "Now I'm running for the US Senate, to service again by breaking through the partisanship in Washington, and help the people of North Carolina..."  This middle section is the weakest part of the ad.

The ad comes back strong with it's disclaimer, "I approve this message, for them." It's unusual and somewhat mysterious so it gets my attention on a part of the spot that's usually a throw away.

Like I said, overall this is a strong opening spot.  While I don't feel all warm and fuzzy for Cal Cunningham, I like him and what to know more about it.  Like a look bio movie, the ad doesn't try to tell you everything about Cal Cunningham's life, but it takes some episode that says something larger about the person.

I'll be looking out for the follow up to this ad to see what they have in store next.