October, 2012

Were Romney Ad-buying Strategists Smart Or Just Lucky?

In retrospect, the Romney campaign’s media planners are looking pretty smart.

As of today, polls show the candidate either ahead or tied nationally and at worst within closing distance in swing states. What’s more, all the advertising money they didn’t spend this summer is now coming into play in what were only a few weeks ago considered safe Obama states – Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, for example.

But how smart were they?

You can make a very good case that it was sheer luck which forced them into smart media-buying decisions.

“I have plenty of clever generals but just give me a lucky one.” – Napoleon

As Napoleon once pointed out, the value of luck can’t be overstated.

The Romney campaign had a big dose of it, though it seemed like bad luck at the time, resulting from federal election laws enacted as long as 38 years ago. Read more →

New Video Campaign Takes On Obama “first Time” Spot On Its Own Terms

The end of a four-year relationship?

How time flies.

Was it only last week that the Obama campaign released a minute-long video with talking head Lena Dunham comparing voting for the first time with a woman’s losing her virginity?

Well, now, a three-spot, $7.4 million, campaign that the Independent Women’s Voice organization modestly calls “an unprecedented, multi-state, multi-million dollar online-targeted advertising buy to educate women about public officials and policies” just launched.

It shows that two opposing political sides can play at the same game.

Like the “First Time” video, it’s targeted to women – but not just women on the threshold of their first sexual experience. And, also like the “First Time” spot, it talks in a similar context.

The difference is that while the “First Time” commercial is couched in the language of the beginning of a relationship, this campaign talks about the end of failing, four-year-long one.

All three videos feature a woman commiserating with her friends about the disintegrating relationship.

In the kickoff video, “Boyfriend,” she says,  “I was so excited at first…He seemed so perfect…I could listen to him talk for hours…I wanted to believe him. I trusted him…I’m tired of waiting for him to get his act together. It’s been almost four years.” Read more →

Candidates’ Different Advertising Structures Reflect Their Differing Government Philosophies

“In 2004, George W. Bush was the first sitting president to be outspent on TV by the other party,” KantarMedia CMAG vice president Elizabeth Wilner wrote yesterday. But “[i]n 2012, Romney will be the first nominee to be out-advertised by members of his own.”

While this results from some of the unintended consequences of federal election campaign laws, it also parallels the different candidates’ beliefs regarding governance.

Obama campaign: centralized

The Obama campaign, according to Wilner, is even more top-down and centralized than the traditional party-dominated campaign model.

Not having to compete in primaries freed up all the Obama money for the general campaign, letting Team Obama get into the fray early – and hard.

“Obama’s campaign has internalized most of the advertising responsibilities traditionally held by a national party committee,” Wilner notes. “The upshot…is that the party’s role has been de-emphasized.” Read more →

Point Of Sale, Etc.

(Banner and brochures for Wicked 10K race table)


Obama ‘first Time’ Commercial Is The Third Time That Idea Was Used

The newest Obama commercial, featuring actress Lena Dunham as a talking head discussing “your first time” (voting, that is) may be a first time for her. But according to other sources, the idea’s been used at least twice before.

Foreign Policy magazine’s blog reports that a very similar idea was used in commercials earlier this year, in television advertising for Vladimir Putin:

I see the Obama campaign has a new YouTube ad featuring Girls star (and fellow Oberlin alum!) Lena Dunham:

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy,” she says, referring to casting your first ballot for Obama. (What were you thinking?)

It’s a clever conceit, but feels a bit familiar. Perhaps because the same joke was used in an ad for Vladimir Putin’s presidential campaign earlier this year:

A suggestive ad rallying support for Putin’s presidential campaign shows a young woman seeking a fortune-teller’s advice. “Let’s find out, cutie, who is intended to you by destiny,” the mystic says. The girl replies, “You know. I wish it to be for love — It is my first time.”

And that wasn’t, er, the first time, either.

P.J. O’Rourke’s essay “Return of the Death of Communism,” published back in 1990 in Give War a Chance, “describes a billboard aimed at city youth (the voting age is 16 in Nicaragua) showing a moonstruck couple in Ortega T-shirts walking hand-in-hand toward a voting booth beneath the headline: ‘When you do it for the first time, do it for love.'”


Of course, among Obama opponents, among others, the commercial didn’t exactly inspire a love-fest. Read more →

Thanks, Readers, For Making Us #1

Out of 174 writers on advertising nationally, our columns now rank #1 in readership.

New Research Shows Obama Ads Boost Enthusiasm – For Romney

It wasn’t supposed to work this way.

But when research firms Evolving Strategies and Qualtrics tested three pro-Obama commercials and four pro-Romney commercials on a sample of 2,384 voters, a funny thing happened.

According to results released yesterday, both sets of spots were very motivating. The only problem is, both motivated respondents to vote for Romney.

Parallel messages

Six of the seven commercials themselves are very parallel.

One of the Romney spots tested attacks the high added costs of Obamacare, while an Obama spot attacks “the Romney-Ryan plan” to “replace Medicare with a voucher system.”

Another Romney :30 cites statistics showing household income has shrunken while national debt has grown under Obama, while an Obama commercial uses Romney footage and denies his claim that the economy‘s still in trouble. Read more →

The Five Best Political Commercials You’ve Never Seen (plus Two That You Have)

That's relatively speaking, of course.

It’s a dirty job, but someone had to do it.

Kantar Media CMAG watches some 400 political television commercials a day, so you don’t have to.

This totals about 6,600 different political commercials, “races for municipal office up to president, and in issue campaigns ranging from how to pay for a new bridge in Detroit to how to define marriage in several states,” according to Kantar VP Elizabeth Wilner.

Today she announced their picks of “five standouts.”

Best of the worst?

These commercials are from different states, for candidates from different parties, for all kinds of different offices. But they have several things in common:

  • They’re all for down-ticket offices; nothing above U. S. Senator.
  • Non-national candidates’ budgets being smaller, they’re designed to run for most, if not all, of the campaign’s duration, so you don’t see any of the crank-it-out, cut-and-paste jobs that characterize national campaigns slavishly following the 24-hour news cycle, which, Wilner says, “ad-makers are expected to churn out…  faster and, often, less creatively than ever.”
  • Each airs in just one jurisdiction, so you won’t see what we call “fill in the blank” commercials and what Wilner calls “‘doughnut ads,’ …[with] a hole in the middle where the ad-maker inserts a candidate’s name and home base” or fact and figure about a specific state.
  • Only in comparison to the usual political spot can these be considered good commercials. Sorta like being the tallest midget or the healthiest leper.

So, having built up the suspense, here are Kantar’s picks of five standout political spots. To these I’ve added two I like – one running here in the Richmond area and the other running nationally (and particularly in Virginia, a battleground state). Read more →

The World’s Lamest Travel Slogans?

Maybe we’re spoiled here in Virginia, because “Virginia is for Lovers” is America’s best-known tourism slogan (and one of the best known in the world) and we’ve been happy with it for going on 43 years now.

Residents of the Empire State can take pride in “I Love New York,” while visitors to Las Vegas find relief and reassurance knowing that “What happens here, stays here.”

Other localities aren’t so lucky. Read more →

Designers And Consumers Hate New Arby’s Logo

In trying to distract attention from one mishap involving fingers, it looks like Arby’s created another one.

The first mishap involving fingers took place in Michigan last May, when a teenager found a severed fingertip inside a roast beef sandwich.

The second is Arby’s new logo, which involves fingers in that designers and readers Bloomberg Business Week consulted have almost unanimously turned thumbs down on it.

Western heritage from Ohio

Even though its first restaurant opened in Boardman, Ohio, the Arby’s name and logo reflect an American West heritage.  Its founders wanted to call it “Big Tex,” but that was already the name of an Akron business, so they made a name out of their initials – R-B, as in Raffel Brothers.

Their logo’s icon was a stylized ten-gallon hat, with the logotype itself in an Old West font, with the capital “A” and the apostrophe before the “s” very nicely integrated into the hat icon. Read more →