Kerry passed this up.

Errol Morris, director of The Fog of War and The Thin Blue Line, interviewed several folks who voted for Bush in 2000 but are supporting Kerry this year. In an interview with the Boston Phoenix, Morris said,

"I was in favor of creating nontraditional political ads. I think that a lot of the ads are so pro forma — they’re so expected that they are not terribly effective. You have to come up with new approaches. Everybody talks about the "Daisy" ad in the 1964 presidential campaign [a Lyndon Johnson spot that graphically depicted a nuclear attack]. Everybody knows what perfunctory advertising is, and people know what innovative and cutting-edge advertising is, and there’s no reason why advertising in a political campaign has to be the way it is.

Q: Where would you file the windsurfing ad the GOP did?

A: The GOP is very good at a certain kind of food-throwing ad. They go for innuendo. But they’re ads! To me, you want to create ads that make people think — that don’t necessarily just say the expected in the expected way. There was an essay by Schopenhauer that I’m very fond of, called "The Art of Controversy," in which he talks about how to win an argument. He says [that] there’s two ways to win an argument: there’s logic and dialectic. Now, anybody knows you can’t win an argument through logic, so let’s pass on quickly to dialectic. And then he proceeds to give you some 30-plus ways to win an argument any way you can. For example, after someone has completely discredited your argument and shown you to be a fool, you look directly into their eyes and say, "You know, I’m really glad you’ve come around to my way of thinking." [Laughs] The idea is that in any kind of persuasion, logic is not necessarily the strongest tool in your arsenal.

Q: And President Bush is a mass persuader who doesn’t really traffic in logic or convincing facts.

A: Yes. And to me, you’re trying to create ideas in the strongest possible way you can. What’s strong about these real-people ads is not necessarily the logical arguments that they’re providing, although in some instances they are logical arguments. What’s interesting to me is that they are real Americans, and they’re actually thinking about stuff. For people who want to say that we have an electorate that doesn’t think, this is an answer to that. This is an electorate that does think, and is concerned. And it’s valuable to hear these people express themselves. Not because they’re involved in some meaningless theatrics or performance — they actually feel this stuff."

I don't find it terribly surprising that Kerry passed these up. They are described as non-traditional by their author, so it doesn't seem to be much of a stretch to say Kerry saw them in those terms and similarly as a risk, if he considered them at all. However, take a look at the ads, now sponsored on the web by Moveonpac.org (a group I don't much care for, but don't let their baggage, or mine, stop you from making up your own mind), the style and content reflect well on Morris and would reflect well on Kerry, if he'd let it.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I couldn't agree more with Errol, that campaign commercials are becoming increasingly formulaic and ineffective. Unfortunately I think his analysis for why Bush's ads have been in any way effective fall into the same "Bush can't win on the facts" conceit liberals have been using to comfort themselves throughout the last 2 elections. Kerry isn't a boring becon of logic any more than Bush is an idiot savant in emotional manipulation. Neither side has any monopoly over the facts or "dialectic". Both sides do have lamentably boring commercials though. When you have to sell yourself to an entire market unfortunately it's better to be boring than alienating.

Actually Kerry has tried "real people" ads already in an innovative, but poorly executed series of ads targeted at very specific markets. Milwaukee's ads could best be described as a "parade of victims". It may have solidified his base among the "dey tuk ur JOBS!!!" crowd but did little else.