Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Winter is Coming

> Posted by Chris Mottola on 13 April

To believe this cycle will be anything but a disaster for Republicans is to believe the political laws of gravity have been suspended.

Simply put: what goes up, must come down.

Political ascendency in American politics is temporary and cyclical. The party that controls the White House loses seats. And badly. Eisenhower lost forty-eight house seats. Nixon forty-nine. Clinton forty-five. W forty-two. Obama sixty-nine.

Senate and governor seats tend to change hands by double digits as well.

Voters want checks and balances. They don’t trust politicians and don’t want one party to have too much power.

Hamilton understood it as both proper and the very nature of our nation, “Caution and investigation are a necessary armor against error and imposition.” (Federalist 31)

It doesn’t mean you have to be an inevitable victim. Over the years we’ve worked with candidates like Arlen Specter and Al D’Amato who won cycle after cycle, even in terrible Republican years. They survived because had a compelling positive record and would not be outfought, outspent or outthought.

The question for elected officials (and those on their payroll) is whether you will be among those freshening up your resume next November or bragging about your political acumen and how you survived the Great Massacre of 2018.

Bullshit Artists

> Posted by Chris Mottola on 30 March

“Finally, we have a campaign device which gives the candidate almost unlimited opportunity to direct the message to precisely that segment of the electorate he believes is important to his success.” *

This quote sounds like it could be a sales pitch from any number of the new data or digital advertising firms. Imagine being able to tightly target voters without waste. Sounds like a dream doesn’t it?

The quote is from 1972 and refers to consultants being able to design specific messaging for the hand held devices ingrained in our daily lives… the telephone and letters. The computer targeting wasn’t a panacea and didn’t change the world. It was just another campaign tool. Just like digital and data now is. All of it’s good. There’s no magic in any of it.

* “Campaign Consultants: pushing sincerity in 1974,” Congressional Quarterly 32. 5/4/74.


> Posted by Chris Mottola on 16 March

There has always been a disturbing trendiness among political consultants. We are always pushing a new technique or style that is a game changer for the next election. (Admission: we are probably guiltier than most for creating the “latest trend.”)

The fact of the matter is people have always voted first for candidates who had a story to tell about what they’ve done in office and why they did it.

We refer to this as narrative architecture. When authentic and honest, your campaign becomes more than just a series of political ads. Your ads become the essence of who you are as an elected official.

The best of these commercials, like the best of public servants, tell the story of victims, villains, heroes and actions in an honest and self-effacing way.

Commercials that trumpet, “Here I am, aren’t you lucky!” are deservedly rejected by voters for their hubris. People don’t want a savior,  they just want someone on their side.

This above all:
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

—Hamlet, Shakespeare


> Posted by Chris Mottola on 2 March

I scratched a long-standing itch last year and taught a full college semester.

One of the warnings I received was to beware of the millennials. I was told they’d be lazy, disinterested, constantly on their phones, etc. You know the clichés.

Nothing could have been further from reality. Like every generation they have their own quirks and personalities. (True, they aren’t rapaciously ambitious like Baby Boomers. We actually invented crack because cocaine didn’t make us aggressive enough.)

I had three students I could put in any campaign at any level in the country and they would be stars. They were that good.

All the students cared about their culture, their society and their shared experiences. They tended to be socially liberal and fiscally prudent. Above all they craved authenticity and honesty.

In the course of the class we reviewed the classics of political advertising. They connected with the oeuvre of old masters Charles Guggenheim, David Garth and Bobby Goodman more than with the ads of Hillary and Trump. Why? Authenticity of message and of candidate. It was a valuable and eye opening experience.

My biggest takeaway is that if you aren’t connecting with millennials, (who will constitute half the workforce by 2020) the problem isn’t them, it’s you.

Think Like An Octopus

> Posted by Chris Mottola on 2 February

For half a century political ads were only seen on television screens. In 2017, television as the sole viewing device for commercials is a quaint notion.

According to Nielsen¹, people now watch as much content as on non-TV screens as they do Live TV.

This creates its own series of problems for creative execution.

  • For example, we:
    watch fifteen to thirty feet from a TV;
    watch six to twelve inches from portables;
    watch Live TV as a concentrated behavior;
    watch our handheld screens while multitasking.

Recognizably, phones, tablets and laptops require each creative be structured, written, visualized and sound designed differently than a television ad.

On top of the technical challenges, consultants must design individualized creative across platforms that don’t cross pressure or muddle their delta message.

An elegant matrix comes from our friend Animalia Mollusca Cephalopoda, the octopus. Its arms act independently and perform specialized tasks to benefit the main creature. As the octopus individual arms serve the whole, individual spots tailored to different screens will serve the campaign key messages.

To simplify the metaphor: The arms are the different advertising platforms; the tasks are the specific messaging.

This is a fundamental shift from trying to persuade voters by sheer tonnage of TV spots. It places an added discipline to have a well thought out, tonally consistent media plan. By adjusting budget allocation while spend the same amount of dollars, advertisers can persuade a greater number of voters.

It’s the way of the future.

¹Nielsen, Total Audience Report, Q1 2016