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05 Mar 2014

The Chorus Is Deafening

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By: Max Moll

Political advertising is a fickle thing. Step too far one way and you alienate half of your target audience. Lean too far toward another, and you distance yourself from another portion of the electorate. As a candidate, burning up your popular support is always one misstep or ill-articulated phrase away. And usually, the unintended consequence of avoiding calculated direction leads to a kind of one-size fits all approach to communicating a message.

With the Texas primary election taking place yesterday, it’s safe to say that we’ve all seen our fair share of ads from someone running for Senate, or Ag Commissioner, or State Rep, or Mayor of Munchkin City, or whatever office seems most opportune for a candidate to secure. At this point, whether you have been paying attention to the ads or not is pretty irrelevant because, spoiler alert – they all sound (and look) the same.

Before I go further, let me acknowledge that we’re talking about primary elections. That means that every candidate is trying to appeal to the same target audience, the same constituency. With this comes an inherent amount of redundancy in both messaging and visual appeal. With that said, it’s become apparently clear that not only are the ads for this year’s primary election eerily similar, they’re practically interchangeable from candidate to candidate.

Take this ad for instance:

Ranch and gun? Check. Keep the border closed? Check. Fight President Obama and the liberal, socialist, propagandist, communist government? Definitely, check. Pretty standard stuff (for Texas) at first glance, right? Well, compare it to this one:

Or maybe this one:

Notice any recurring themes?

As someone who is both heavily involved in the political world and fairly attuned to the messaging used by political campaigns, these ads are pretty disheartening. Never mind that my political views are in stark contrast from what is communicated in these spots – I promise, that’s not the point. The point is, as players in this political game we must do better. We must hold our profession and ourselves to higher esteem than just regurgitating the stereotypical messages and visual cues we have become accustomed to feeding the electorate for years. No matter our party or political stances, we have to be better than that.

I think my disdain for these ads is due in part to a book that I’m currently re-reading. Written by my former professor and mentor Robert Mann, “Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad That Changed American Politics” takes a look at a seminal moment in American political advertising. Produced in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign against Barry Goldwater, the advertisement is everything that visual and audible messaging should be. It’s a tale of dichotomies. It’s innocent and terrifying. It’s both simple and complex. Its strength is in what’s being said without actually saying it. Basically, it’s incredible.

While I realize that an ad utilized in a Republican primary in Texas is much different than one used in a nation-wide presidential campaign, the same rules still apply. There really is no excuse. The “Daisy Girl” ad isn’t an expensive – or hard, for that matter – ad to produce. Even the most cash-strapped local campaign could produce a similar spot with relative ease. A young girl, a flower, a stock video of an atom bomb exploding, and boom! You’re done.

Where the difference in these ads is in the way the message is being communicated. The first three are under the impression that they have to feed you their message through brute force. The “Daisy Girl” ad on the other hand, communicates its message much more effectively without forcing itself on you. Notice that LBJ’s opponent wasn’t even mentioned in the spot. Again, the power of the ad is in what it didn’t have to say – Elect Barry Goldwater and risk all out nuclear war and the safety of everything you hold dear.

The flaws in these ads also speaks to both the world in which we live and the way that we’ve become accustomed to consuming information. In our generation of re-tweets and BuzzFeed lists, we like our information to be delivered quickly. The demand on our attention span is greater today than any time in history, and we don’t want to expend any of our valuable time or mental capacity reading further into something. The problem with this is that when every candidate is vying for a bit our limited mind space, their messages become diluted to the lowest common denominator (i.e. “Secure The Border. Fight Obama.”) This leads to generic messaging, which leads to generic ads, which leads to something being said without anything actually being said. Throw in three of four more candidates all seeking support from the same target constituency, and you’ve got a chorus of messaging that does nothing to stand out in the mind of the viewer.

And while this sort-of vicious cycle is no fault of anyone in particular, it is up to those who have made a career of crafting these campaigns to take more pride in creating inspiring, thoughtful work. Whether a candidate is a natural-born leader or not, it is our job to mold them into the best version of their political selves they can be. It is our duty to make them feel comfortable as the leader of the band, not just part of it. It is up to us to ensure that their voice stands out on its own and doesn’t become drowned out by the chorus.

 

Elite Change, Inc. To Spearhead Public Outreach For Major League Baseball’s 2014 Civil Rights Game

Civil Rights Game; Ancillary Events To Continue MLB’s Commitment To Equality

For Immediate Release

March 3rd, 2014 – (HOUSTON, TX) – Houston-based public affairs and strategic communications firm Elite Change, Inc. will continue its work with Major League Baseball (MLB) by leading community outreach efforts around the 2014 MLB Civil Rights Game. This announcement comes on the heels of the firm’s work last year of leading outreach efforts for Major League Baseball’s 2nd Annual Diversity Business Summit.

“We are thrilled to continue our work with Major League Baseball,” said Elite Change, Inc. President & CEO, Dallas Jones. “After the success of last year’s Diversity Business Summit, we are anxious to get to work promoting the 2014 Civil Rights Game, as well as Major League Baseball’s trailblazing commitment to fostering diversity in our community. MLB’s legacy of inclusion and diversity is well-documented – we feel truly honored to be a part of it.”

The 2014 Civil Rights Game and ancillary events will take place May 29th & 30th in Houston, Texas and will be co-hosted by the Houston Astros. Civil Rights Game events include the “Baseball & the Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion;” the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon honoring Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Motown founder Berry Gordy, and world-renowned poet Maya Angelou; and the 8th annual MLB Civil Rights Game between the Houston Astros & Baltimore Orioles at Minute Maid Park.

“We are very excited to be working with Elite Change, Inc. on one of Major League Baseball’s most important events,” said Sylvia Lind, Director of Baseball Development Initiatives for MLB. “Their work on last year’s Diversity Business Summit made a tremendous impact, and we have no doubt that together we will make this year’s Civil Rights Game the best one yet. We look forward to engaging Houston’s incredibly diverse communities and citizens to continue our work of paying tribute to those who fight on and off the field for equal rights for all Americans.”

Founded in 2006, Elite Change, Inc. has grown into a nationally recognized firm focused on influencing and building communities around its clients’ initiatives. Along with the 2013 MLB Diversity Business Summit, Elite Change, Inc.’s client list includes entities and individuals doing business at all levels of the political, corporate, and public sectors. Much of the firm’s success has been rooted in the work it has done in communities of diverse cultural backgrounds.

To learn more about the 2014 Major League Baseball Civil Rights Game and ancillary events, please visit http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/civil_rights_game/y2014/index.jsp.

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About Elite Change, Inc.  Founded in 2006 by President & CEO Dallas S. Jones, Elite Change, Inc. is a full-service public affairs and strategic communications firm based in Houston, Texas. Since its inception, Elite Change has become a nationally recognized firm working in the public, government, and corporate sectors. Born out of the concept of “Empowering Leadership In Today’s Environment,” Elite change, Inc.’s mission is to make a positive impact in the communities in which it works. For more on the firm, please visit http://www.elitechange.com.