Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vitter-Melancon Battle Only Slightly Better Than Fake Sumo Wrestling At A Corporate Retreat

Ever seen two guys in those big puffy fake sumo wrestler suits go at it? Kind of funny for a couple of minutes, then just sad and embarrassing. That pretty well sums up the Vitter-Melancon race.

Vitter has trotted out a series of ho-hum ads including a spot that used one of my favorite horrible political ad cliches, "Charlie Melancon, he's not on our side." Oh yeah, it has a bobblehead in it, too.

Now Melancon, shooting the best (and probably) last bullet in his gun, Charlie has produced a 2:00 commercial laying out (pun intended) the Vitter prostitution story. But this is no ordinary 2:00 commercial, it's repackaged as a quasi news show.

The big moment comes at 1:01 where they show someone who wants their identity protected. We see the silhouette of someone identified as "Retired Firefighter" who says, "if someone writes the laws, they should abide by the laws." Explosive!

The "re-enactment" scene is pretty funny, too.

I give them credit for trying to do something interesting, but it's probably best left to professionals.

Grade: C

Click here to watch "Forgotten"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

DGA Tries To Break Rick Perry, Winds Up Cracking Us Up

It's big news that the DGA is playing in the Texas Governor's Race. Especially when you consider that running TV in the Lone Star State is going to cost them somewhere north of $600,000 a week.

But if you're going to run millions of dollars in paid media, shouldn't you spend more than hundreds of dollars on the production of your spot. The visuals are homemade, the image is mushy and the entire spot looks as if they spent almost as much as ten minutes in deep thought about it.

The messaging has the potential to hit hard, but the technique puts the "hack" in "hackneyed." If this is their best shot, Rick Perry has nothing to worry about.

Grade: F

Click here to watch "Cracks"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Alan Grayson Makes My Head Hurt

It's negative ad season. I get that. Trust me when I tell you a good negative ad should be clear and simple. It can be funny, it can be fancy, but it has to make sense right away.

Apparently Alan Grayson disagrees with me.

In this attack ad against Daniel Webster, they use a piece of video that would, no doubt, drive Grayson's base crazy. But it's so chopped up, stomped on and convoluted that I could barely make it to the 30 second mark.

But I'm glad I did, because at the end Grayson calls Daniel Webster a Taliban. That made my day.

Grade: D

Hold on tight and watch "Taliban"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Carly Fiorina Plays The "Ma'am" Card Just Right

When you have a killer piece of video against your opponent, the easiest thing to do is overplay your hand.

Team Carly has been sitting on the "Call me Senator" clip for months waiting for the right time to use it. (This clip really sticks in my craw, because I live in Texas where "ma'am" is always an appropriate term of address, but never mind.)

In this spot from Fred Davis' Strategic Perception, the clip is handled exactly right. It's played in context and features a short, but stinging rebuke nicely delivered by the candidate.

Instead of a personal attack, they use the clip to jujitsu Washington arrogance as a whole. Nice edit and terrific performance by Carly. (But she's spoiled us all cycle.) Tip of the beret to the cinematographer who put Carly in a dramatic light while still keeping an approachable look.

Grade: A (My first "A" of the cycle, besides the ones I gave myself)

Click here to watch and learn

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Charlie Crist Draws The Line

How do you explain why you changed your party affiliation to Independent without using the words "because I was going to lose the Republican primary?"

Charlie Crist does a pretty decent job of it in this spot called "Line In The Sand." He shot it on a beach in Florida and uses the sand as a nice device to get his point across. Love him or hate him, Charlie delivers on camera.

But hey, what's the deal with the snap-zoom into Charlie when he speaks? Seems like there are two mandatories for every Charlie Crist spot:

1. Put Charlie in a light blue golf shirt
2. Snap zoom into Charlie when he speaks

It's hokey camera work in an otherwise nice spot.

Click here to see "Line In The Sand"

Jerry Labriola Tries To Be So Bad It's Good

The budget for the Old Spice commercials are probably north of a million dollars a piece. The budget for Jerry Labriola's "spoof" (nice word for "stolen") is north of about a hundred.

I don't even know what to say. Except stealing is bad. In this case, really bad.

Make sure you have an empty stomach and click here to watch "Anything Is Possible"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rick Perry: A Good Actor In A Bad Movie

Sometimes you go to the movies and you wonder, how on earth did that guy wind up attached to that piece of trash? That's what's going on with Rick Perry's new commercial.

Love him or hate him (there are lots of folks on both sides), you have to admit Rick Perry's a pretty decent actor. Looks good, hits his marks, takes direction, camera likes him, etc.

Even the message is good. "Texas Is Open For Business" is a solid piece of strategic writing.

But it's the space between concept and execution that separates the good from the bad.

The idea is completely sabotaged by a lackluster, flat video look, some amateurish color correction and some set ups that make us want to pull out the Flock of Seagulls cassettes. And why is the candidate in the exact same wardrobe in every single shot?

A major race ($2 million a message for media) in a major state (that happens to be home to several Hollywood network TV productions) should look a whole lot better.

Grade: C

Click here to watch "Open For Business"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Christine O'Donnell Has A Few Complaints About Mike Castle

Okay, for those of you who say I only pick on Democrats, today is your lucky blog day.

Christine O'Donnell, locked in a rock 'em-sock 'em Senate primary battle with Mike Castle, is up with a spot that can only be described as ten pounds of polling data in a five pound bag.

Too many copy points with too many standard-issue political spot graphics all over the screen. It looks like a 30-second ransom note.

We like Christine O'Donnell, she's the kind of fiesty candidate that keeps politics fun. But just because you're running in a small state doesn't mean you have to look small. Good spots and bad spots, they all cost the same. This just isn't US Senate caliber work.

Grade: D

Click here to watch "Castle"

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Joe Wilson Calls In The Marine(s) has decided to play in a South Carolina Congressional race giving money to Rob Miller.

Needless to say, isn't really popular in South Carolina. Especially with military folks. General Jim Livingston goes on TV to have a Marine-to-Marine talk with Rob Miller about giving the money back. Sounds convoluted, but the general makes it work.

His performance is an A, the graphics are a C. We'll give it a B.

Click here to see "General Livingston"

Ted Strickland Breaks New Creative Ground

In his latest attack ad, Ted Strickland uses grainy black and white slow motion images of his opponent, hokey After Effects tricks on cheap stock photos and red bars with blocky, poorly set type.

Then, he kicks it up a notch by using a shot of the US Capitol in the background and invoking China.

I think the bar has been set.

Grade: D

Click here to endure "Revolving Door"

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Jerry Brown Changes Course, Goes Positive

After the unions have poured millions into a negative TV blitz on Jerry Brown's behalf, Jerry Brown has decided to do something crazy – go positive.

In Jerry's first spot, he brings back the good old days. Emphasis on old since many voters weren't born yet or are now too old to remember Jerry's actual record. The spot itself is a 70's throwback that drags production values down to the basement using cheap, if not free, stock footage and a very uninspiring turn with Jerry talking straight to the camera.

If you can bore people into voting for you, Jerry's in.

Check out "Jerry"

Friday, September 03, 2010

Patty Murray Tries To Turn Lemons Into Wenatchee Lemonade

Patty Murray has a little problem. Like a lot of senators who have made their careers on their ability to haul pork back home, Patty now has to justify all the pork hauling.

Trouble is, that ain't easy.

In this testimonial spot, Karl Struble sets the "way back" machine for 1995 and turns what should be an emotional story about saving lives in Washington to a generic hospital commercial with no heart. Where are the patients whose lives were saved? Where are the people telling the heartwarming stories?

Instead, Struble gives us people in scrubs whipping out old bromides like "she really came through for us" and "she cut through the red tape" combined with b-roll shots of Patty nodding as people pretend to talk to her.

Free tip of the day: you can't bore people into voting for you.

Grade: D

Click here to watch "Wenatchee"

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Now Here's How It's Done: Our New Ad for the RGA

From the guiltless self-promotion department, here's a new ad we produced for the RGA in Georgia.

If you make political ads, please take notes:
- a negative ad does not have to be red, gray and black
- a negative ad does not have to use an ugly picture of the opponent
- a negative ad can be designed and art directed to look interesting

This, boys and girls, is how it's done.

Click here to watch "Iron Fist"

Robin Carnahan Takes Her Best Shot

Arguably the least talented member of the Carnahan political clan, Robin's running behind Roy Blunt and clearly pressing the panic button.

In this shot, for some strange reason titled "Mug," Team Carnahan takes all the best hits and jams them all in one boring, poorly art directed ad.

Like every boring political hit ad it features a stunning color palette of black, red and gray set off with the use of headlines shown on torn bits of paper. Groundbreaking.

This is a campaign in trouble and these ads show it.

Click here to watch "Mug"