08 March 2008

Simplifying The Positive

Mr. Obama
Mrs. Obama
Obama ’08 Campaign

March 8, 2008

I’m just a guy in Atlanta who has been spending waaaay too much time in front of his computer this last week in an emotional stupor because…well, because the guy I voted for back in the Georgia Primary, the same guy I get to see on TV every night, the one who looks more like me than any presidential candidate ever - yes, you, Mr. Barack Obama - seems to be in a quandary. “Seems to be” is the operative word here. I know the hundred thousand watt minds running your campaign are probably burning brightly enough to light up all the buildings in downtown Atlanta, but the thing is, in regular America, the one that organizes its week around “American Idol” or “Lost” and plans bathroom breaks during the commercials – to this America, anything more than a momentary pause in your campaign’s activity is a negative. The great unwashed, with whom I work everyday, fill coffee breaks and smoke breaks with the top sound bites from the day before. “Looks like your boy has had it,” has been a common remark this week.

So I’ve gone through all the sports analogies – Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope”, Tiger Woods malevolently self-contained A-game, Michael Jordan’s soaring “Air Jordan” style of play - trying to come up with something that can help get the you back in the saddle going forward. These guys were not dirty players, they didn’t break the rules of play – your kind of guys. The things these three have in common, though – speed and quickness, combined with superior execution of technique – is only half of the equation. The other half of what made these guys so dominant was how their personalities accentuated their styles of play.

Even though I am tempted by the image flashing through my mind of your long brown arm stretched above a canvas ring, the Everlast glove at the end of it smushed against the jaw of Mrs. Clinton as you, your head turned sideways, smile broadly at the camera, I will reel myself back to reality – the political arena is more like a golf tournament, replete with overflowing galleries, battalions of photogs, designated meet and greets, and elevated teeboxes, which serve as the players podiums when it is time for their clubs to speak. I wish it was as simple as putting on a red shirt because its Sunday and you have the fifty four hole lead, but you’re not trying to come in with the least amount of votes at the end of the day.

You opponent has simplified the negative. You can simplify the positive.

Have some fun, man!!! I do not want to see your dour face on TV every night, not because you can’t be dejected, but because I don’t want Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to see you like that. And because your face lights up when you genuinely laugh – that beats the Clinton wrinkled staredown everyday of the week.

Three ideas for commercials

Idea # 1

****Spoof the cellular phone commercial that touts its network by portraying the behind the scenes switches and relays as people – very humanizing. Mr. Obama walks away from the camera alongside someone in a pantsuit and blonde hairdo who resembles Hillary Clinton from the back, having a civil exchange about some policy difference (pick one that’s not too arcane – something with acronyms or a name we instantly recognize – maybe Medicare or Medicaid) when she he stops, turns, and faces her (the camera). There are thousands of people behind him, young, old, black, white, Latino, wearing t-shirts, suits & ties, scrub suits, firefighters, police - pleasant faced but not smiling mindlessly. She leans forward (camera draws in on Mr. Obama, framing his head, shoulders, and a horizon filled with faces) and asks, “Barack, who are all those people?”. His replies, “It’s my network”
Okay, so he can’t say “its my network”, but it could be something that encapsulates a part of his message in three to four words that are easily digestible and easily repeated.

Would work well with your matter of fact personality. Tweak or rearrange to suit.****

Idea # 2

*****[Simple commercial idea – plays to melodic voice and story telling ability. White shirt, buttoned – no tie, no jacket. Leaning over a rough hewn fence rail, watching young children at play. Mr. Obama and kids in panoramic shot as he begins to speak – camera tightens focus until only children at play are in the picture.]

“Our children all start out the same way:

[Can use images for bullet points below with voiceover - your voice can carry the bullet points without images, though, making for simpler visuals]

• Using first grade reading primers. “See Spot. See Spot run.”

• Learning the Golden Rule - ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.

• Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.

• Saying the Lord’s Prayer before we go to bed

I’m here to tell you that being a parent is a lot like running for president of the United States. In many ways, I feel the same way about my campaign that I feel about my children. I want them to have good home training. I want them to abide by the rules of the community and the society they live in. I want them to be people I can be proud of, because the way the world sees them is the way the world sees me.

I make the same commitment to you that I made to my wife and my kids, to be the best candidate I can be as I run for president of these United States.******

Idea # 3

***** [Mr. Obama, standing in front of a large white screen, speaking directly into the camera]

My political advisors and I had a meeting a few days ago. They were very concerned about the negative ads coming out against my campaign. “Barack,” they said, “we know you’ve pledged not to ‘go negative’ in your campaign. We’ve practically memorized your speech on why you can’t stand that kind of politics. So what we came up with is a way to address these ads without having to ‘go negative’.

[Camera pans back to reveal two slowly scrolling bands of YouTube-like listings, one on either side of him. They are large enough to make out the faces in the ads and some of the larger graphics – red phone ad etc. Mr. Obama pauses, screws up his mouth, then continues]

“You know what I told them? I said, “The good people who have donated to my campaign did so because of what I stand for. I can’t in good conscience waste the twenty dollar and fifty dollar donations from working Americans who are sacrificing precious income at a time when the cost of living is going up and the economy is going down. So I told them to forget about spending the $30,000 dollars it would cost to make these negative ads stream past my face. [camera pans back further to reveal the edges of the white screen and the tape holding the mockups of the negative commercials. Two or three workmen then lift the entire screen up and walk it off, revealing the confines of a TV soundstage]

I told them, “forget about the idea of buying twice as many positive ads spots to counteract the negative ads.”

Because when this is all over - when the cameras are packed up, when the sound bites run dry, when the roars from the rallies across the country fade away, when the final ballots have been counted…

…it is time to practice what you preach.*****

Will forward other ideas as they come – the main thing is, DO NOT let these ten cent hustlers from Arkansas define you. There are many, many ways to create positive sound bites to crowd out the garbage the Clinton campaign is pushing. But if garbage is all people have to go on, you are screwed.

Also, get the press release count up. The weight of all that garbage floating around the internet and the news media weighs heavily on the weak minded, who are looking for an excuse to fall back on the very real “I told you his ass was too black to make it” sentiment that is beginning to raise its ugly head around the water cooler at my office.

From the ‘burbs of the ATL

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