Thursday, September 25, 2008

Political Ad Bloopers

I love picking on political ads. Because the budgets are small and the talent pool is shallow, the local ads are the most hilarious, but that's shooting fish in a barrel. Even Sara Palin has to admit that ain't sporting. No, I prefer to go after the state-wide or national campaigns that have supposedly bigger budgets and supposedly better ad agencies producing their spots.

Sure, I can point out the political details that are often glossed over or ignored by the copywriters in order to stoke an emotional response. Like the McCain ads that lean on the tried and true Republican tactic of proclaiming that Obama and his Liberal friends in congress want to raise your taxes, thus planting the seed in the dittohead brain that somehow taxes won't go up under McCain. Pretty ironic stuff coming from the party whose president is about to engineer the biggest economic bailout since FDR.

But I'd rather leave that sort of thing to the political pundits. My specialty is spotting the technical and production gaffs that can pop up in a hastily produced political ad. It may come as surprise to realize that ever since Ike appeared in the first TV spots for president, the same film techniques that sell you soap and aspirin have been employed to influence your vote. Some Eisenhower commercials were produced by Walt Disney studios, using the same talent pool of animators and technicians that brought you "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty." From the very beginning, the bar was set high. As a result, it never occurs to the average viewer that a photo of a rumpled woman with a look of concern on her face only represents a haggard working mother, but in reality she is a paid professional model. Or that it took 15 takes before your senator could master the finer points of jumping off that John Deere tractor and shaking the hand of a dusty farmer (civic theater thespian) in letterboxed slow-mo. These people are in the image making business, and reality is a lose concept lost somewhere between the Bridge to Nowhere and a swiftboat.

Currently, my favorites are the ads for Ohio's Issue 6. Now I'm not necessarily against opening a casino in Clinton County. In fact, Wilmington could use the jobs. But the "Vote Yes" spots contain a number of distractions that make me wonder just how much care and research really went into this campaign.

The most recent ad I just ingested into our station's spot server is an answer to a negative ad by the opposition. At one point we see a car crossing the boarder into Ohio, meant to represent the image of an Ohio resident staying in Ohio to spend his gambling dollars in his home state. Ignoring, for the moment, the fact that if an Ohio resident is staying in Ohio he doesn't need to reenter a state he never left, this image would be a whole lot more convincing if the car shown driving into Ohio had an Ohio license plate.

The first ad in the campaign is even more fun. Here we are shown cars, trucks, and buses driving across the various state lines representing "Ohio dollars leaving the state at 65 miles per hour." It would be a great visual if those damn details brought on by a short production deadline and a limited budget didn't get in the way. "We're surrounded by states that allow casino gambling," states the voice over. Make that nearly surrounded. Kentucky does not have casinos, but you're more than welcome to drive down to Turfway or Churchill Downs and watch your money gallop around the track, so that's a wash. What I can't get past is how the same tour bus shown crossing into Michigan is then shown crossing into West Virginia. Neat trick.

And I'm still trying to figure out how those trucks and buses are entering West Virginia rolling right past the state line sign without crossing the Ohio River.

Maybe what they need is a bridge to nowhere.

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