What is the trump card in effective media messaging? (And no, "message" should never have become a verb. So it goes.)
GOING ON THE OFFENSIVE WITH THE POWER OF A FLOWER
It is considered the single most successful attack ad in the history of political advertising.
It promises that your vote is now more important than ever.
If you don't vote this November, it's highly likely that the United States of America will end up being led by a notorious and ignorant martinet at the helm.
The world could even be looking at nuclear annihilation.
And you, the faithful reader of this weekly screed, probably know exactly which advertisement we're talking about.
(You also know that somehow, this ridiculousness is all going to be tied back in to your own marketing, don't you.)
THE COMMERCIAL IN QUESTION IS NOT NEW
It does not come from any of today's ever more exciting and distinguished presidential campaigns.
It's the 1964 political advertising classic, "Daisy."
An anti-Barry Goldwater message from the Lyndon B. Johnson campaign, "Daisy" is widely regarded as the most controversial political advertisement of all time.
(If you don't know the commercial--which seems unlikely--it is simply this: a little girl in a field, plucking petals from a daisy as she counts them up. The audio segues to a mission-control, launch-pad countdown. Freeze-frame the little girl. Cut to a series of uber-violent nuclear explosions. LBJ's voice says, "These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die." An announcer VO says, "Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.")
"Daisy" is considered to be one of the main reasons for LBJ's landslide victory over Goldwater in the presidential election--even though it only ever aired once as a paid spot. (It was broadcast several more times in the context of news reports. Thank you, earned-media credits.)
What's interesting is this: if you ignore "Daisy," and look at the other attack ads that came out of that campaign, know what you see?
AN OPPONENT'S WORDS BEING USED AGAINST HIM
Absent "Daisy," the TV commercial "Eastern Seaboard" is considered the quintessential attack ad:
A hand saw is cutting through the east coast of the United States. VO: "In a Saturday Evening Post article dated August 31st 1963, Barry Goldwater said, 'Sometimes, I think this country would be better off if we just sawed off the eastern seaboard and let it float out to sea.'" The saw finishes cutting and the east coast floats away. "Can a man who makes statements like these be expected to serve all the people justly and fairly? Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home."
But really, one of the most shocking, fear-mongering anti-Goldwater messages is the infamous "KKK For Goldwater" spot. We'll refrain from quoting it all here. We'll simply say that it's a series of Ku Klux Klan newsreel clips (klips?) shot at night, filled with white hoods and burning crosses. The VO quotes a series of racist, hate-filled sentiments from KKK Grand Dragon Robert Creel--along with Creel's statement, "I like Barry Goldwater. He needs our help."
SOUND VAGUELY SIMILAR TO WHAT'S HAPPENING TODAY?
Just do a Google search on "best anti trump advertising."
There is a slew of work out there featuring idiotic things Donald Trump has said and done in front of a TV camera.
And publications like Mother Jones are proud to trot out Clinton-produced anti-Trump videos and hail them as brutal masterworks allowing the candidate to hoist himself with his own petard.
Here's the problem.
They're not masterworks at all.
Yes, sadly, they are accurate representations of what has come out of the man's mouth.
THEY ALSO WON'T WORK
They are entirely too complicated. They cut together all kinds of clips from all kinds of different sources. They become dizzying in their effort to prove the candidate is a buffoon.
In short, they lack focus.
Combine that with an unfocused media landscape that is vast and fragmented beyond anything anyone could have imagined in 1964, and the problem is further compounded.
When there were only three national TV networks and no other video media besides your local stations, focus was the default position.
And messages like "Daisy," "Eastern Seaboard" and "KKK For Goldwater" were clear, succinct and had POW RIGHT IN THE KISSER impact.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ANTI-CLINTON ADVERTISING?
Well, if you do the same kind of Google search for "best anti-clinton advertising," you're going to find something different.
Yes, the candidate's own words are being used against her.
But they're being done with much more brevity, clarity and punch.
That doesn't necessarily mean they're going to work.
There's still the challenge of the fragmented media landscape (among others).
But the messages are often doing a much better job of hitting a single, resonant note.
Of course, none of this is to say it couldn't all change overnight. We're talking about life at the speed of digits.
But it all goes to underscore a long-running challenge with the Clinton campaign, to wit...
A LACK OF FOCUS AND CLARITY
This is nothing new.
As far back as a year ago, there were news stories about the erstwhile Secretary of State's inability to develop a cohesive brand.
The campaign has never communicated one way the voter should feel about Hilary Clinton.
There absolutely is one way the voter should feel about Donald Trump.
It might be repellent and appalling, but it's firm and concrete.
Love it or hate it, you know what the Trump brand is.
No, there will probably never be any single online video or series of videos that have the same overall impact as the Goldwater attack ads.
But here's the useful take-away for the small-business brand.
FOCUS AND CLARITY RULE
The focus and clarity of the anti-Goldwater ads were hardly an accident.
The messages were produced by the same ad agency that gave us some of the most resonant, clutter-cutting advertising messages of all time.
Volkswagen's "Think small."
Avis' "Number two and trying harder."
Life Cereal's "Mikey likes it."
Ad agency DDB was a powerhouse of media messaging in the 1960s.
It's difficult to find much in the current, evermore cluttered media landscape that cuts through and resonates with Bill-Bernbach style simplicity and zeitgeist magnetism.
Except maybe, oh...
Advertising form Apple, which looks very Bernbachian.
TOO MUCH TOO MUCH TOO MUCH TOO MUCH TOO MUCH
There's just too much communication.
None of us have the luxury of unfocused branding and unclear messaging.
Clarity and focus.
Clarity and focus.
Clarity and focus.
Is that clear and focused?
Clarity and focus.
THEY MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER
Herb Kelleher's internal directive, "We are the low cost airline" for running Southwest Airlines.
Apple's "Think different" directive for the personal computer in your life.
McDonald's "I'm lovin' it" fast-food happiness infusion.
Consistent clarity and focus are the trump card. (No pun intended.)
And remember to be relevant.
Do all that, and whatever your campaign, you just might win.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.