Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ads of the Damned: Ron Johnson, "Apple Pie"

Now this is interesting -- two very different ads in one day!

I'll say this for the Johnson campaign: cutting two spots from the same day of shooting is a very economical way to produce ad copy.

If Johnson's first spot was a straight forward "hard-working, strong-leader" sell, then this ad clearly is designed to be a little more playful: a meta-commentary on the schlockiness of political advertising. It's not a bad concept in theory, and it certainly preys on viewers purported disdain for candidate ads, but in execution this spot falls on it's goggle-covered face.

For starters the first 0:11 are clearly intended to be a parody of endless candidate bio ads ... the problem is that the montage suffers from, of all things, sincerity. If you're making a parody, you better make damn sure the audience knows it's a parody. The narrator's voice isn't over-the-top enough and the stock footage, while certainly generic and corny, just doesn't seem hokey enough. I honestly thought the woman crossing the finish line was participating in the Special Olympics the first time I saw the ad:
I'm not kidding.

But just as I was wondering if this ad actually went so far as to make fun of the mentally handicapped, Ron Johnson breaks through the fourth wall!
The rest of the script is notably more negative than Johnson's previous ad. We hear phrases like "squandering," "reckless," "irresponsible," "fed up" and "failure." It's obviously intended to tap into voter resentment, and since Johnson has yet to really define himself in the eyes of voters viewers can only assume that he wants this resentment to be part of his public identity.

Even Scott Walker has yet to tap into this sentiment as aggressively.

Once we viewers are magically transported back to the Pacur factory floor we are left with a very important question: why? There is no need for Johnson to be back at the factory where he has to put the goggles back on (other than it's cheaper and less time-consuming to shoot two ads in one location). The ad is primarily about "spending" and yet the visuals are much better suited for "jobs" -- there's a disconnect between the verbal rhetoric and the visual rhetoric that just doesn't jive.

The "big picture" message of this ad isn't "Political TV ads are lame" or even "Government spends too much" It's supposed to be "Ron Johnson is not politics as usual."

Unfortunately, I'm not confident this ad accomplishes pushing this message very effectively. The very first image we get of Johnson he's pushing away a sumptuous apple pie spread, as if he's rejecting the very embodiment of wholesome American values. Yeah, I get the joke: he's not rejecting America, but an exhausted and tired version of America that "career politicians" endlessly push; but the opening montage that helps to make this distinction just isn't clear enough.

Final Grade: D

1 comment:

stew said...

What do you think of the Cadillac Healthcare for Convicts/Diet ad of Tom Barrett?

I was very disappointed in it. The "diet" thing is trite in the extreme, even if it tries for humor when the waitress offers pie or whatever.
meh, no thanks, but it's not really actually upsetting I guess.

But the Cadillac healthcare for convicts buzz-phrase! whoa, That seems insane to me, like just really dumb. It sounds like a specious accusation that would come out of Beck or Limbaugh's mouth. or pulled out of someone's ass- where is the basis for this? This is not exactly a common concern in the public psyche like the Healthcare concern was so well-established as Number One in ppl's minds before every candidate and their dog started to run on that. This is just a random bit of weird that some "expert" must have thought sounded cute.
I watched a couple people groan or roll eyes while watching it (they are not right-wingers)

In addition - if you visit Barrett's website you are gonna want to set that goddam menu bar on fire. That spazztastic red selector bar is as annoying as a sparkly MySpace-style cursor trailer. wtf.
Barrett does seems relaxed and self-possessed in his ad, but re: some of his creative people - wtf.