Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Offended? When political ads get edgy

A week or so John blogged about edgy marketing (remember the company that used condoms as a trade show give-away)? Another place it’s just shown up is in a political ad running in Massachusetts as part of the gubernatorial campaign. (I was in Ireland when this brouhaha brewed up, but I finally saw the ad the other night.)

We’re not talking Swift-boat or Willie Horton here. (Not that we don't have some of those. Kerry Healey has an ad that, if you don’t listen closely enough, seems to be saying that if you vote for Deval Patrick you’re voting for a cop killer.) We’re talking about a laugh out loud ad run by Independent Christy Mihos that I’m sure is offending lots of people.

The ad – which is a cartoon – points out that the Beacon Hill insiders responsible for the Big Dig (including a blonde cartoon figure bearing a striking resemblance to Kerry Healey) have their heads, well, there’s no other way to say it: up their butts. The cartoon figures are standing there, but when there’s a point made about the Big Dig, up the heads go, and what’s left of the insider pols and bureaucrats waddle away, heads firmly wedged. The real Christy Mihos then comes on and says, “If you’re offended, you should be offended.”

Yes, the ad is offensive, and God knows the political culture doesn’t really need to get any further debased, but the ad’s also funny and I’m guessing pretty good marketing. Mihos – a wealthy businessman, Republican-turned-Indie - is the sleeper in this race. I think that, whatever they’re claiming now, a lot of people are going to give Mihos a serious look. They’re sick of Kerry Healy’s negative ads (run in parallel with a smarmy ad in which she talks about what she and Deval Patrick have in common). They’re unsure about what it is that Deval Patrick is talking about when his ads say “Yes We Can”. (Can what, Deval? You’ve got my vote, but just what is it that you’re going to do with it?)

Sure, the Mihos ad may be vulgar, but it certainly taps into what a lot of us are thinking anyway, and it just might pay off for him.

And personally, I find an outright offensive ad a lot less offensive than the run of the mill negative and misleading political ads we’ve become inured to.

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