The October 27 Ad Age is particularly interesting in light of the Fraters Libertas post discussed below. For a trade paper, Ad Age has become stridently partisan during this election cycle. Earlier I noted how they pooh-poohed the Rather/forged documents fraud and engaged in a little fact-challenged Bush-bashing to boot.
This week they are at it again but with in a triple dose.
Their ad reviewer is apparently an acolyte of the Moore school of politics. Here is how he starts his critique of the Ashley advertisement:
This has been the most divisive, polarized and dishonest presidential campaign in recent memory. It has stunk of lies and sleaze and Swiftboat veterans who have long memories but no clue about what democracy is, much less patriotism.My jaw dropped when I read that. I can understand questioning the conclusions of the Swift Boat veterans. I think an honest voter can disagree with them and believe that Kerry would make a better president than Bush. But to question the patriotism of highly decorated veterans-some of them wounded in action or tortured as POWs-is an egregious libel.
Later on he decides to make sure we all understand the reality that the Ashley spot obscures:
That may also be what voters want to see in the heart and soul of their president: a powerful but compassionate father figure, who can hug us all and tell us, don't worry, everything is going to be OK.The main front page story starts with a big scary headline:
But everything's in shambles
Of course, everything isn't OK. Everything, from the economy to the bloody Iraq fiasco to our basic Americans freedoms, is in a shambles. But one thing the polls show is clear: In moments of crisis, the people have a deep-seated psychological need to trust Our Leader, no matter how manifestly untrustworthy he may be. This commercial has seized on that need like no other message in this long, ugly campaign.
Christian group spooks advertisersIt discusses the efforts of the American Family Association to get advertisers to stop funding offensive programs. The story is filled with rhetoric designed to worry Ad Age's readers about those pushy, ignorant Christians.
In their editorial, though, they call for courage:
enlisting marketers in its cause by tapping the fear of its virtual army of believers
SOME RESISTANCE-- Not all marketers wilt under AFA pressure
While the AFA has sent some advertisers scurrying for cover
The big joke is that the advertising business is a special interest in its own right. They like edgy commercials and edgy programming. They like spending their client's money on commercials that their colleagues will see. They don't want to complicate things by having to listen to customers. They get offended when clients wonder if their money is really building the brand and increasing sales.
Marketers must set own agendas
PRESSURE GROUPS ARE FREE to hammer marketers about where they advertise and how they act. It's incumbent on marketers to listen, but they must not let special interests set the agenda.
Ad Age doesn't really dig into the question of why AFA is now having success nor do they ask if there are forces at work that marketers should pay attention to.
The AFA, OTOH, has a good understanding of why they are effective:
While the AFA has been at this for a quarter century, its recent successes stem largely from the power of e-mail to reach supporters and advertisers, said Tim Wildmon, president of the group. "E-mail is instantaneous, and our numbers are growing rapidly," he said. "A lot of people are disgusted with the explicitness on television, and the advertisers I believe are having a hard time defending it. Couple that with the fact that it's a very competitive marketplace. You don't want to offend several hundred thousand people."
Consumers do not get their news just from Dan Rather; they do not form an opinion about Coke just from viewing commercials on their favorite programs. Now they know what other programs Coke supports. That, too, becomes part of the brand message. Formerly, a brand could send separate messages to different segments-be edgy with MTV, be apple pie on broadcast news shows. News, in turn, was perceived as nonpartisan, fair, and patriotic. All these elements have changed.
Marketers face a novel challenge with the rise of new media and the destruction of barriers that formally blocked the flow of information. They no longer can approach brand-building as a matter of one-way messages. They cannot be certain that their market segmentation won't have blow-back.
For marketers, this is a problem. Ford wants truck buyers to have one message "Ford Tough" in mind. They do not want to see "Ford funds Rather's partisan lies" take hold. An attention-grabbing ad on MTV may win an award and move some sales in that demographic. But what happens if millions of conservative customers find out about it and are offended? How does a marketer measure the net ROI on that?
But it is clear that the legacy media, the advertising industry, and the trade papers are determined to hide this danger. Or maybe they are oblivious. They are pretty insular in their deep-blue coastal enclaves.
In any case, for The Elder to see results from his suggestion, heartland consumers have to find a way to make their voices heard where it matters: in the offices of the big companies whose ad budgets keep the MSM fat and happy.