Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ads of the Damned: Russ Feingold, "Forward"

Wow, has Russ Feingold ever played it so ... safe?

There's really not much going on in this ad. Some folksy Wisconsin identity talk and pictures of Walter Davidson followed by a bunch of old senators. The sequence is capped off with an interesting logical visual construction. First we see a old photo of Frank Lloyd Wright, then this:
Those houses sure as hell weren't designed by Wright, but the next frame is a close up of the leftmost house's roof, which has solar-panel. The visual seems to suggest that Wisconsin has a glorious history of coming up with clever solutions to complicated problems without overtly saying, "Long live the tree-humping whale-savers!" I guess that's the better alternative, but at the end of the day: meh.

Then we get a staple of Feingold communication: "That's why you told me to stand up to Wall Street and the big banks, so I said no to the bailout." That's a carefully worded statement right there that makes Feingold look like a vessel of the people and each Wisconsinite's conduit to Washington. Add the corresponding visuals of Feingold at one of his famous listening sessions and the point is driven home quite nicely.

The spot ends with a direct-to-camera, level angled frame of Feingold talking to the voter as he recites the FEC disclaimer. It's a good way of letting voters know that, even though he's a U.S. Senator, he's talking to them on their level. Or, alternatively, it's a visual way of suggesting that Feingold is "leveling" with the voter. Very effective stuff.

Still, this is Russ Feingold we're talking about here. Were this for any other candidate we'd be impressed, but for Feingold and his ad guy, Steve Eichenbaum, it kinda has the feel that they've phoned it in.

Why is that? I imagine somewhere in the bowels of the Feingold campaign headquarters is some polling data that says people want serious answers to the economy. They don't want goofy this election season, or at least not yet. They want someone who isn't going to screw around or someone who doesn't appear to be taking voters' problems seriously. We'll probably see some lighter moments later in the campaign, but I wouldn't be surprised if this matter-of-fact tone Feingold uses today sets the mood for the rest of the campaign (unless the economy picks up).

Final Grade: C-

: Here's Wisconsinology's take on the use of the Wright imagery.


CJ said...

Nice critique but keep your shorts on.
I expect this is just a warm up. Things might get meatier as time passes.

Jim said...

I went back through a few weeks of posts looking for a critique of this ad earlier today. Expected one was already up, but glad to see one made it.

Stewie Grades Higher said...

well it doesn't just show Wright it shows G Nelson and Proxmire and other Big Name "classics" of WI history and innovation, THEN the solar panel on the roof. The house is very mundane and average Joe, not run-down but uber-modest, suggesting innovation is integrated into "regular" Wisconsinites daily lives without hassle cuz that's how we do things here.
Kind of "Green + Garrison Keillor". Change and adaptation that is as simple as a trip to your hardware store and a new gadget or two that you pick up along with the tomato cages.

Change that preserves rather than disrupts

and if I was Feingold I'd go for the Stability thing now too. After all that CHANGE yada yada and the ensuing disruption of this last year (the housing/economy, the unsettling social aspects implied in the rise of the Teabaggers and let's face it - it does seem like natural disasters are on the increase, yes?)

Well now it's not Feingold the Rebel who was the only guy to not sign the PATRIOT act, but Feingold the Familiar. Mr. Wisconsin. Let the rest of the country get weird, have turmoil, we won't we're Wisconsin we're stable, we're simple yet awesome, we'll be okay
Like a message of "quiet competence". Which seems to me to be the image Feingold has always had.

I dunno, its for sure not glitzy but it doesn't seem like phoning in to me -
he goes BACK to old fashioned images while talking about FORWARD so to us in WI "Forwardness" is old-fashioned and familiar. Kind clever and subtle IMO. Really Zen - non-dualistic and uniting of opposites

But then I tend to like Russ' style anyway, and I could probably put a positive spin on him taking a dump right during the Correspondent's dinner.
Oh yeah definitely.

CJ said...

You nailed it with "quiet competence" and "change that preserves, not disrupts".

Stewie said...

oh, O.O Thanks CJ
but.. the real thanks goes to Russ, eh?

and BTW I figured Russ never really looks at his Facebook page (too busy etc), that it was a thing only his aids dealt with, and maybe so. But it SEEMS that he himself may have commented this a.m. (if not, it's an aide pretending to be him)

Sadly I had deposited some idiocy on that thread just prior to his earthly appearance. The type of tasteless humor that makes people wanna bang their heads on solid surfaces.
oh yeah, um.. Hi Russ....
(it's not easy bein' Stewieeeeeee)