Presidential Pardon Me: Climbing Out of the Advertising Rubble

Well, the Presidential election is over. And, while I’m excited about the prospect of catching up again with my more highly opinionated Facebook friends that I hid away the last few months, I’m still bummed out that about 49% of Americans think we’re going to Hades in a hand basket. Regardless of who won this election, that was a certain repercussion.

And today, after an eloquent victory speech by the winner and an equally gracious speech by the runner-up, we’re reminded that these two guys might not be as evil as they were painted to be. And just like the morning after a boisterous college night where things spun out of control and you punched your best friend, we will now sheepishly touch base again with our colleagues on the other end of the aisle. “Dude, uh, sorry about last night.  It was the election talking.”

How did things turn so acrimonious?  It’s hard not to blame advertising.

Advertising at its best can enlighten, engage, and inspire. At its worse, it can misinform, enrage, and dissuade. When you consider the staggering billons of dollars spent to sway the Ohio voter and then you see how both sides totally and utterly turned us off to their message, you can’t help but scratch your head. David Ogilvy has shared many a quotable quote on the subject of good advertising over the years. Let’s measure this year’s political advertising efforts against some of his own words.

“Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read.  You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”

It’s no secret that political advertising has always played loose with facts, but didn’t it seem especially disturbing to see the number of ads that were just direct character attacks? Had someone dropped in from another world, they would have thought we had a choice between some novice Socialist radical and an evil corporate monster. Regardless of which side of the ballot you voted, how can you not walk away a little depressed?

“The pursuit of excellence is less profitable than the pursuit of bigness, but it can be more satisfying.”

Here at The Ohlmann Group, we try to use every cent of our client’s budget wisely and with strategic intent.  In contrast, the advertising effort from both candidates this year was a virtual carpet bomb.  The radio, the tv, the piles and piles of direct mail that rarely merited a second look in their trip from mail box to trash can. And then there’s the phenomenal waste of money and effort spent on telemarketing.

Last week, I received not one, but two separate Romney calls from Pat Boone.   Pat. Freaking. Boone.  Was there any credible market research done that would indicate that a 40-something male would take precious time away from his busy day to listen to what Pat Boone had to say?  I mean, could you have at least given me Debby?  For that matter, Jay-Z and Springsteen didn’t offer any additional benefit in this voter’s mind.  I’d rather not form my world view with the opinions of people that rarely wake up before noon. Keep your “big.”  Give me “excellent.”

Somewhere in the last 500 words, I think this exercise degraded from a helpful blog post to a rant, but I do feel better. And I know we’ll all feel better once we put the divisiveness of the last few months behind us. But until a candidate truly embraces the positive power of advertising and its ability to inspire, we will always wake up on the morning after with a disgruntled 49 percent. Here’s hoping for a positive and productive next four years – until the fur starts flying again.

 

Jim Hausfeld

As Creative Director for The Ohlmann Group, Jim helps guide the vision of their web, print, broadcast, and other creative. In a career spanning over two decades, he’s collected over 100 local, regional, and national advertising awards, including a National ADDY Award and an International Radio and Production RAP Award. Plus once, in a moment of wild abandon, he piloted a blimp.

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