September 17, 2008
One might conclude that political ads and PR is one of a contending campaign’s biggest assets to the public — and the obvious fuel to this fire is money.
And as we continue to notice the numerous left or right attack ads in what seems like every commercial break we run across, the press can’t help but link this back to their big story, Obama’s 66 million dollars in August. And this is perfectly on the spot — you essentially can’t go anywhere to the left or right (online or on your feet) without being swarmed with donation and fundraising opportunities and events. Recently attending an Obama fundraiser, I was amazed with the amount of excess opportunities to buy and donate to the Obama/Biden camp, especially considering the amount of money it cost to get in the actual venue.
But when looking at the outcome of all this money steadily flowing into the Democrat’s hands, it begs a comment which has been screaming in my head for the last few days: “Is this what all this money is part of? Negative campaigning?”
As a PR-focused political commenter, I understand that attack ads are merely defense from the latest opposing attacks, but as Karl Rove pointed out, the ads are really going to far. And although Rove may not be the brightest of politicians, his point is made clear.
But in my view, the most essential thing here is the fact that the ads are virtually an input-output machine, with the input money, and the output a decline in the polls.
I always look at a campaign in three stages, the first a reception, the second dinner, and the third a drunken bar fight. In more clarity — the candidates spend the beginning of their campaign introducing themselves, the second sitting down and watching the effects throughout the primaries, and the third picking fights and running negative attack ads. And although this has proven to work in the past, a change in politics is in my view essential to winning the campaign.
So why, then, it is that as Obama keeps listing the lies of McCain’s attacks, the left slips in the polls? America doesn’t like disputes, they like answers. And so this back and fourth attack — defense media battle thus acts as an eclipse to regular politics, and further lets the conservatives ride on Sarah Palin’s media wave, perhaps right into the White House.
This is also comparable to a basketball game where one team is winning by 5 points. The other team may score, but the leading squad (in this case the McCain camp) will always return with another two points. And although the first team keeps scoring, they will always be down by five points, and in the end, losing the game.
My point? Although Obama may speak the truth in his attacks, he must sacrifice a good reputation if he wants the White House next Spring.
September 1, 2008
After releasing his latest ad: “No Change“, many are questioning candidate Barack Obama’s lack of criticism toward opposing vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, who (let’s not forget) has posed as a giant target for almost every American democrat lately.
But is this really true? I disagree.
In dissent, Sarah Palin is truly a tough target to hit in many ways, no matter how large of a dart-board she looks right to your average political commentator. This problem, in a primitive sense, is similar to ‘telling on’ a teacher’s pet, no matter how guilty they may be. The liberal press (or the press at all) can report all they want on Palin’s troopergate scandal, but if Obama takes a shot at it, it will most likely backfire as a sign of weakness or rage, similar to Hillary Clinton’s “Change You Can Xerox” remarks, ending in harsh boos.
And who is the teacher — blocking all of these would be Obama talking points, you may ask.
Its actually a hybrid of John McCain, the army of conservative bloggers and youtuber’s, and to stir it all up, Hurricane Gustav and its effect on the GOP convention. This three headed press monster strikes in more places than one, and is designed specifically to rebound any Democratic attacks.
First, John McCain, who chose Palin as his running mate, has chosen a move thought to be defensive to many liberals but in truth very effective, in his act of “taking off his party hat” and undressing the festivities of the GOP convention in the wake of hurricane Gustav. But by doing this, McCain has also created an Obama trap.
If the liberals try to take any kind of shot at the Republicans, the Right Wing will be able to not only defend themselves in a political way, but then question their relentless attacks in a time of crisis (referring to hurricane Gustav).
So while nothing official can happen between both parties for now, the McCain camp will have this week’s victory, both letting the press flood away any news stories about Obama’s speech with news of the hurricane and sending some sort of political point out of his convention.
Meanwhile, the third and last head of the press monster (behind McCain and hurricane Gustav) is the conservative “www” army, flooding blogs everywhere and taking up mostly all youtube comment sections under Obama videos. Although this kind of attack, below, is not official to the McCain camp, it poses a huge scary reminder to the democratic senator of how many devout McCain supports are willing to relentlessly attack everywhere on the public web, no matter how badly they would fair in a debate with each other. Although Obama may know more about the web than his opponent, with campaign accounts everywhere filled with conservative spam messages and attacks, he just may have to admit loss in this category.
So as Sarah Palin keeps letting out attack points, from her Troopergate scandal to her 17 year old daughter’s pregnancy, she is merely bait for McCain’s press monster to trap Obama in a whirlwind of backfiring remarks.
My advice for Obama? Stay out of the spotlight for a week, and then, when the storm comes to a close, make up for lost time with more than one attack ad.
August 30, 2008
After a long string of politics, I took cover by way of the local AMC, but in the end, I couldn’t escape what continues to surround me as well as everyone else — politics.
No, this time it wasn’t Wolf Blitzer or a fiery Fox anchor, but a dose of something rare – an American citizen who just let it slip. It was actually the most exciting part of the movie, (Traitor), and the film hadn’t started yet.
After a quite loud tribute to the soldiers overseas wearing the red, white, and blue via song by Kid Rock (somehow with NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. thrown into it) a sole man seated across from me booed.
It wasn’t a scream, but it had meaning to it. Received almost exactly to the contrary by a enraged man in the row behind, the disagreement turned into a full-fledged political debate — all we needed now was Ralph Nater to show up.
And then there was me. From the outer shell, the innocent thirteen year old sitting with a friend for the sole purpose of enjoying a movie. But then here I was — the partisan, sometimes non partisan political blogger who is regularly mistaken for someone decades older. And that person, the late twenties or early thirties political mojo would almost certainly jump in, maybe even throw in a little dose of Anderson Cooper while they were at it. But no, of course not. I’m a kid. So I sat down.
Eventually the two men were calmed down by some security and the whole thing was over with, but the buzz in the movie theater was still alive. The previews rolled on and the movie started, which was conveniently centered around terrorism, hardly a theme that suited the previous argument.
So I didn’t move a muscle. Why? Certainly a highly opinionated and politically immersed person like me would have a voice, and this was definitely a time to show it. But in the end, until I grow over 5’10, lose my braces and higher-pitched voice, I would look like your average kid, associated with anything your average stereotypical annoying thirteen-year old would be connected with. But connect me with a pen and paper, and its a different world.
Another reason by blogging is the new media.
August 11, 2008
Lets face it — America loves the comeback kid. Simply, we love to read about the guy who was once bad and now is good. If they reconstructed their life, they have a story. And in a sense — that’s what makes us great — we give second chances, and people who accept that have another chance. But this is something that goes beyond the television, beyond the newspapers — behind the scenes. This is what saves the day for the rich and famous, celebrity and nutty. And finally, this is what gives the genius PR guy his well-earned week’s pay.
Growing in the new age of media, I can spot a PR stunt when I see one. It can be flawlessly pulled off, and it can be failed. In theory, to pull of a public relations job really just needs to fit a common narrative. If its viable to the American public, then it can be done. PR guys can really save the reputations of anyone on the public map. A common example of a PR stunt on the political side would be the tell-tail story of Jenna Bush. The daughter of the president of the US, a tipsy, parting Jenna was busted for underage drinking and was completely demolished by the press.
Then she disappears.
Barely any information comes up about her in months. But no one wonders where she went. The media always has other things to report, and they carried on with that. During that time, Bush slowly created an instant resume, re-building her reputation off the air. Then she suddenly comes back into the press, and come back with a bang. She is suddenly a new person — cleaned up and engaged. She took trips overseas to Africa, came back with humanitarian street ‘cred, had a stint teaching unprivileged inner city children, wrote a book about HIV AIDS with a first run of 500,000 copies, and goes on a book tour. During that time she stayed completely out of clubs and the media, denouncing herself from a household name to a lesser status. Then she came back with a bang, made herself a hit in the media , and set up a very press-worty future — a book tour that the NY times correctly identified as a media blitz.
What was pulled off here was not only a true PR stunt, but a successful one as well. Why? It covered all a stunt like this should have. What a true PR genius must do before starting his plan is a recognition of the hurdles he must tackle. Whoever constructed this plot obviously knew that the public would not forget the underage drinking if it wasn’t taken care of. So he/she took this into consideration when constructing Jenna’s new life. And because of this, the book that Jenna wrote not only cleaned up her resume, but it really was the coupe-de-grace of the whole stunt.
Another great example of a PR stunt on the entertainment side is celebrity Paris Hilton. Hilton was really a victim of her own choices, and that dug her deep into a hole that was very tough to escape. After a sting of events that all ended up all of the internet, and sometimes backfiring at her — the media had a field day slamming her down. She: (in just some of her faults) released a horrific album that bombed the charts, got arrested and convicted for DUI, had a great deal of crying that happened all be on national TV, got any last bit of self esteem snatched from her a the VMA’s by Sarah Silverman, went to jail, got that famous mugshot, and then as a coming out party, had a disaster of a Larry King interview. By that time, she was in trouble. Another blow would be a definite KO for her, and she knew it.
Enter the dragon, or as I would call him — the PR guy. With his/her aid, Paris took the tactics of many before her and took months off, both rebuilding and letting the press forget about her. And in a sense, they did.
Then, after John McCain took a swipe at Obama as well as her with his campaign ad — she pounced, fully charged and ready. She struck back with her response commercial, and at the same time took a decisive step back into the fiery realm of the media. Her commercial was both funny and accurate, but most of all it was genius. She knew she couldn’t win pretending she was just an American citizen, so she in a sense admitted her stardom and called herself a celebrity, which would have never happened before. This time, though, it worked. The press fell for it, and Hilton was back where she was always meant to be — a rich, dumb blonde fashion model who doubles as a celebrity by night. That may not win a nobel prize, but it is where she is meant to be.
PR stunts are really that last spark of hope in politics and entertainment that has saved the careers of many. There have been many of these acts before and there are many in process right now (an example would be Britney Spears). And although they work unnoticed, behind the scenes, the real geniuses behind all of these acts are the PR guys. And that’s how it will stay.