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August 2008 Archives

Suggested Negative Ads for Obama, McCain

Posted by Bill Lee on August 22, 2008 at 08:13 PM

OK, having come out in favor of negative ads -- provided they're more artfully done than the typical hack job -- I thought I'd offer a suggestion for each of the campaigns. They are in keeping with the high road of negative campaigning carved out in the business world by Apple, in its Mac vs. PC ads!

Note to Obama and McCain campaigns: I could crank out lots more of these, for a reasonable fee:) Have your people call my people!


Scene opens to an older, white haired gentleman, "M," slowly sweeping up some trash with a a rather small, tired looking broom. In walks "O," a tall, nice looking, young African American fellow with a dynamic looking team of 3 or 4 others, wearing platic hard hats, carrying laptops and blueprints.

O: Hey M, what are you up to?

M: Well as anyone can see O, I'm cleaning up the mess in Washington and changing the way it works.

O: Wall that's great M. So . . . how long have you been at it?

M: I've been doing this for 25 years. I have experience at this sort of thing!

POV sweeps to one side, revealing a huge group of messy piles of trash and garbage. They dwarf the relatively tiny container M has been laboriously filling up. One is labeled "Corruption." Another "Deficit." Others are labeled "Katrina," "Crumbling Infrastructure," "Guantanimo," "Foreign Policy."

O and M both look at the huge, untouched mess. Then M turns to O and angrily points his broom at him.

M: Now just a second, O!

O (sympathetically): I'm just thinking M . . .

At that point, M's worn out broom breaks, as M looks sadly down at it.

O: . . . maybe it's time to bring in another team


Scene opens in a generic convenience store, where a very (very) young African American fellow is adjusting one of the sign displays on a shelf. In walks a distinguished white haired gentleman.

M: Oh, hi O. What's going on?

O: Well, I've just completely reinvented this whole place.

M (gently skeptical): Ohhh? How so?

O: Well just take a look! See these signs here? Well, I just moved them; they were way over there. And see these shelves here? See how they're going this way? I just re-arranged them! They were going that way.

M: Hmm, OK. Well, good job! So what are you going to do next?

At this point, a customer walks into the background and begins searching for something. He looks confused.

O: Well, next I'm going to be Chief Executive of the federal government, Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces and Leader of the Free World. I'm going to fix the way things work in Washington, end global warming, defeat terrorism with soaring rhetoric, solve the energy crisis, and make everyone else in the world love us.

M looks at O with his mouth slightly open. He's speechless.

O: And that's just for starters!

At this point the customer in the bg turns to O.

CUSTOMER: Hey, where the heck did you put the burpee machine?

In Praise of (the Occassional) Negative Campaign

Posted by Bill Lee on August 21, 2008 at 08:12 AM

It's the season of presidential politics, so I thought I'd jump in. It's become conventional wisdom to decry negative campaigning -- it's right up there with excessive CEO pay and declining public schools. Yesterday's Seth Godin: "The reliance on negative stories in politics makes me sick. I think we should be above that."

Not me! Without negative campaigning (or "differentiation campaigning":) we're left to gain our understanding about our next president from the candidates own spin doctors. That's like buying an important and expensive service only by reading the in-house marketing copy. Nothing we do as a people is as important as picking a president. It's essential for voters to exercise critical thinking. Well placed negative messaging helps us do that.

Best negative campaign out there? The political ones that I've seen are a pretty sorry lot. The best is from business: the PC vs. Mac ads. Sly, humorous, and here's the key for me: they don't demonize PC - like a political ad would. Instead, they convey a sense of affection for poor, bumbling PC. When he does something dumb or off putting, sympathetic Mac looks . . . disappointed. Very effective.

Note to Obama and MsCain negative ad-meisters (and yes, Obama will be going negative soon with his recent drop in the polls) (Update: the man moves fast!): why not take the same tone in your negative ads? Don't demonize the other guy. Point out his shortcomings in a gently humorous way . . and then sympathize with him! "Hey, we're all human! The other guy's just gotten off track a bit. He's not such a bad guy, but I can do a better job for you." I think they'd be more effective. They'd definitely go down easier with viewers.