Good advertising chases off customers. How much do you care if penny-pinching, nit-picking, deal-shoppers are offended by your message? Inflict them on your competitors. Your core customers, the ones who stick with you, will love you sending the weasels packing.
“This is Alabama. We speak English,” says the tv ad for gubernatorial candidate Tim James. “If you want to live here, learn it.”
Predictable shock waves rolled across the national consciousness when his ad first ran. How dare he say that? How narrow-minded. How exclusionary! How brilliant.
Discrimination is the mark of good advertising
Shock and awe is political advertising’s stock and trade. A deeper look reveals a profitable lesson for you: political advertising is to marketing what poetry is to literature: it evokes a response, inspires action, and does so with the greatest possible economy. It has to.
Mr. James is talking about more than language. He’s evoking an attitude of “them” and “us,” of “in” and “out.” He’s hoisting a banner to rally voters who prize Alabama’s culture. Isn’t he being discriminatory? You bet. That’s the point. If you don’t like what he’s selling, you’re not his voter. You probably wouldn’t be anyway.
Good advertising disqualify the unqualified. The slight downside: most people don’t like being disqualified. But, those who do qualify will find greater affinity with you. Congratulations. You’ve created an in-group.
Taking a stand demands nerve and backbone
I’m not saying Tim James is right or wrong. Voters will make that determination. Advertising isn’t a forum for debate any more than it’s a tool for education. It’s a mix of carrot and stick created for one purpose: move you into action.
James has nothing to lose. The June 1st runoff is coming fast. Bradley Byrne, a former State Senator, is the front runner among all candidates–on both sides. It’s put up or shut up time in the race. And, James has gone all-in on a message that’s generated over a million YouTube views its first week. Want to see it?
Profit from these political ad principles
Before you watch his ad at the bottom of this story, consider how these five principles of political advertising would impact your marketing:
It’s not what they’re selling, it’s how they’re doing it
Political ads take a stand, build a case, call for choice. What part of that is bad? If you can’t describe in five words or less why you’re running an ad, don’t. Case in point: Martha Coakley’s horrible everything-for-everyone ad. Running ads without a clear purpose is like taking a road trip without a map. Burn gas. Get nowhere.
Speak in plain language your answer to questions asked
Politicians speak to what voters care about. James Carville’s “it’s the economy, stupid” credo echoed in every Clinton ad, making Bush’s bland message of consistency and experience look flaccid by comparison. Forget what’s important to you. Advertise what matters to customers.
Express what you oppose in balance with what you support
Polite doesn’t sell. Don’t be rude. Be direct. Draw the line. “We’re not the cheapest. Neither are our customers,” draws a line. “Our customers appreciate our work. They know how expensive cheap service can be.” Say it with swagger and be noticed. It worked for Scott Brown. Even more so for LBJ. His Daisy spot crushed Goldwater in one minute.
Keep it fresh, but keep on message: be one thing
What is the one thing that draws customers to you? Promote that. Put it in every ad. The family occupying The White House rode there on one word. A campaign uses many messages, but it revolves around one idea. What’s yours?
When an ad breaks from the pack, ride it hard and far
Create multiple ads, variations on your theme. Rotate them. But, when one really rings the bell, ring it loudly. Reagan’s Morning in America still resonates today. When you land on something that moves people, stay with it.
Political advertising has to move the needle quickly. Shouldn’t yours? You can’t charge half a magnet any more than you can create ads that please everyone. Magnets can only attract to the extent they repel. Same goes for your ads. Say who you are. Say it shamelessly. You’ll offend countless people who wouldn’t have done business with you anyway. But, the ones who do will love you for it.
You can’t win big without first taking risks
Will you offend someone? Hope so. Will you get calls complaining about your ads? Only if you do it right. Will you win the hearts, minds (and wallets) of those who connect with your message? As a noteworthy politician often says, “You betcha.”
Because you scrolled this far down, I’m going to share a rare jewel with you. It defies description, but demosntrates how far we’ve come as a culture. What you’re about to see actually generated lift in polls. What response do you suppose this ad would generate today:
UPDATE: James lost in the Republican Primary of seven candidates. He missed making the runoff by one-tenth of a point.