Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm not with stupid.

If you're like me, you're probably pretty sick of political advertising.

Here in the DC suburbs, we're getting it heavy. Of course, there's a national election on. But Virginia next door is not only a "battleground" state, but also is electing a Senator. *

It's exhausting.

But it's also somewhere between disgusting and embarrassing. Full of half-truth, shades of the truth, misrepresented truths, quotes and comments out of context, personal attacks, name-calling and often - let's just say it - outright lies.

If I was stuck working for one of the agencies that produces that crap, I'd probably take a hot shower every day after work - and still feel kind of dirty. Maybe this is how political advertising has always been, throwing mud at the Other Guy rather than applause at Your Guy. I don't know.

But I do know that few of us in commercial advertising practice the same sort of approach that people who do political ads do. Here's an example:

Capella Georgetown is a new client of ours that is opening a luxury hotel in Georgetown. It's going to be quite a place. Real nice. On the Canal, a block off M Street, just 48 rooms. And on and on. For example, every guest is assigned a Personal Assistant who will Make the Magic Happen - almost regardless of what you might want.

OK, now the most similar competitor hotel to us is The Jefferson. The Jefferson is a small, very, very, very nice place where guests enjoy privacy and discretion. It's also the hotel where, at least 10 years ago, political goombah Dick Morris took hookers. That was a long time ago and had more to do with Dick Morris and his own morals than The Jefferson.

But if we approached advertising for Capella the way Political Ad Agency XYZ approaches advertising for their guy Candidate Bob, we'd be running ads with headlines like: "Hookers prefer the Jefferson." Or "The Jefferson - haven for hookers." Or even "The Jefferson. Got ho's?"

My point is that advertising is an incredibly cost-effective tool you can use to tell your potential customers why the hell they ought to care about you. If all a product carried in its ads was distortions about its competitors, wouldn't you walk away wondering why they can't think of anything better to say about themselves than that the other stuff is worse?

Most of the people I know in this business - probably everybody I know in this business - is focused on finding what is good and unique about our clients and developing creative ways to tell the public about it. That's not what the charlatans at political advertising agencies are about.

And the fact that the DC Ad Club wants to embrace these guys in order to pump up the perceived size of the DC ad market is disappointing at best.

OK, fact: Nasuti & Hinkle does not do the kind of dishonest, misleading advertising that characterizes most of what we see today from candidates for political office. Neither does August, Lang Husak. Or RP3. Or Lunchbucket Creative, LM&O, SmithGifford, Adworks, Arnold, Pappas, Exit 10 or anybody the hell else I can think of that I admire. Period.

One time, when I was the advertising and PR manager for part of a Fortune 500 company a co-worker introduced me to her husband at a company party. "So you're the paid liar, huh?" he said.

When I look at political commercials today, I guess I have to understand why he felt that way.

*As usual, please note the correct use of "not only" and "but also". I'm fairly certain no political advertising agency could do that . . .