Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Every four years, the country is over-run with political ads from presidential hopefuls, and for the most part, they are aggressive, in-your-face and pushing the limits of the truth….all supposedly to make a point about the other candidate’s inability to govern and make decisions that are in our collective best interests.
But this year, the ads from the McCain and Obama camps have overstepped even the most nebulous of bounds of truth, and have made both of them look careless, unnecessarily immature, and wholly unable to manage, let alone control, their own communications machine.
Check out the article in Time magazine – Facts, Fables & Fibs (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/pdf/2008_facts_fibs.pdf) – published in the September 29th issue, on pages 46-47 to see the good, the bad and the ugly charted out. You’ll find that there are an unacceptable amount of ads currently circulating throughout the country that are “mostly false”, and a few that are out and out lies.
And if our two aspiring candidates can’t even manage and control their ad content, and have really “approved these ads”, then we’re all in serious trouble for the next 4 years, because both candidates have become the political versions of the “me-me-me-at-any-cost” approach that the pseudo-Wall Street titans have taken during the past decade. And we all know the big picture results of that: distrust in the few, making decisions for the many.
But who is really at the root of the problem?
Campaign managers? Communications directors? The hopefuls themselves? Not in my opinion. It’s the admen advising them and making these supremely distasteful and misleading ads, which themselves have become even bigger news than the real issues at stake, and the hopefuls’ positions on them.
Somehow, these fawned-over, empty arbitors of what supposedly sells and what doesn’t (and whose average client-life is a whopping 3.5 years, so that should tell you how much they really know) have gotten caught up in their own celebrity and have lost focus on the very tenant of what good and effective advertising is supposed to be all about – and what ultimately works: the truth. Tell / show me why your product is better than the other, give me real reasons to trust, real reasons to use and real reasons to buy, don’t play the bait-and-switch game, and I’ll be loyal. Again and again.
What am I supposed to say to my 11-year old when he sees one of these ads and asks: is that really true, did (name) say that? Does he / she believe that? Do all people in advertising – yes, your business Dad, and therefore, you – lie or stretch the truth?
Smart, well-thought out communications strategies and tactics that out-position the competition have gone by the wayside and been replaced by lazy, reactionary, knee-jerk missives that frankly, make me embarrassed for my industry. Even a few of my clients have referred to them, saying: don’t pull a (McCain / Obama), I want an ad I can be proud of, and I want my customers to be able to trust in me, my company / brand, and my product.
I know there is a Truth In Advertising watchdog somewhere….but….where have you gone?