Friday, May 7, 2010

Ads of the Damned: Scott Walker, "Saturn"

Since Scott Walker won't allow anyone to embed his TV ads, we're going to have to show someone else's.
By way of contrast, here's one of our favorite ads of all time:

Why are we showing you this magnificent piece of immortal advertising? Because it seems pretty clear to us that Scott Walker's strategy is to dull some of the the sharper edges of his fire-breathing conservatism by creating ads that make him seem affable, sunny and agreeable to just about everyone, when his record suggests his temperament to closer to that of our friend Jim above.

So far, so good. Walker's third ad has him moving out of his house and into his car (on the way to work perhaps?). There seems to be a story arc developing between the ads. First we were in the living room, then kitchen, now we're traveling somewhere with the candidate.

The script is marked improvement over Walker's first two ads. Instead talking like he's from the San Fernando Valley or cracking wise about taxes, the primary focus is his aspiration to send his kids to college, which is universal American shorthand for "I want my kids to have a better life than mine." That's great stuff. Very humanizing. People can relate to that feeling. The more often Walker can get out a message like that, the further away from Jim Shapiro his hard-boiled conservatism seems.

Let's look at the technical aspects of the spot. The entire commercial is only a couple of frames, the dominate one being Walker driving in his car:

This is good. First, he's the one doing the driving -- God help the candidate who ever features his chauffeur in one of his campaign ads. Secondly, driving suggests that Walker's in control, that he's both a competent navigator and steady pilot. We don't really talk about "the ship of state" metaphor much these days because most of us travel in cars, as opposed to boats these days, but it's a fine substitute nonetheless.

The last frame is very very effective:

The audience gets a reminder of the brown bag along with Walker "switching gears." It's a great and subtle metaphor for changing leadership and a reminder that Walker is frugal.

If one wants to really read into the ad, one could argue that the entire concept of the ad is a very subtle "screw you" to the supporters of high speed rail in Wisconsin. It's as if the ad says "In Wisconsin, we drive to work." Read into this what you'd like.

The audio seems a bit flat in this spot. I doubt a '98 Saturn is soundproof, and since the hum of the tires on the road can't be heard, it's likely that Walker had to dub over the audio in post production. The effect is noticeable and Walker's words don't seem to spring from his mouth like they did in the earlier pieces.

This is the third ad in row Walker's been joined by the dopey whistling soundtrack. At this point, no matter how much I personally dislike it, the song is becoming part of the Walker brand, so he may as well keep on using it as often as it takes to elicit a Pavlovian response from TV watchers.

Also worth pointing out: it was obviously shot in winter and likely won't run anymore now that snow has melted. We might have given him a higher grade if the spot were more useful.

Final grade: B

Previously on Ads of the Damned:

National Republican Congressional Committee: "David Obey: Obama's Spending Architect"
Scott Walker: "Brown Bag"
Russ Feingold: "Forward"
Mark Neumann: "Kicked Off"
Democratic National Committee: "Shots"
Americans for Prosperity: "Tracy Walsh"
American Future Fund: "Pig"
Scott Walker: "Salary"
Terrence Wall: "Rebuild"

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