Friday, 17 February 2012

Oh Ricky, what a pity you don't understand

Getting any ad campaign past a client can be a tricky business. Often times, those who have the least to contribute to the creative process, are content to critique other people’s ideas, just so they’re seen to be playing a part.

Case in point, I once wrote an ad for a mobile phone company that attempted to offer reasons why some customers might occasionally miss the deadline for their phone bills. The innocuous image that accompanied the equally inoffensive headline, showed a woman relaxing on her couch in a state of exhaustion, surrounded by expensive shopping bags full of shoe boxes. We can talk about gender stereotypes in advertising another time. The point here, is that I showed the concept to the client, she took one look at it and shook her head disapprovingly. “She looks like she’s been raped.” There are very few times when I’ve been lost for words in a work context. That was one of them.

I suppose we live in a world where people can take offense at the slightest thing. So every idea has to be focus-grouped within an inch of its life, to make sure there’s no chance that anyone will pick up on some barely perceptible element and find something to complain about. Which makes Rick Santorum’s latest campaign ad a truly astonishing marvel of miscommunication. Is it really possible that no-one in his team piped up and said "Hang on a minute, doesn't that look a little like..."

Recently, I wrote about Rick’s slippery situation, brought about by his incessant (some might say obsessive) slights on the gay community. Without wanting to repeat the whole thing, the upshot of it is that his name has now been reappropriated as a word to describe ‘the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex’. The news networks know it, his campaign team know it, and even the internet-free octogenarians in Pennsylvania know it. Although they try not to think about it.

Unfortunately, the voters in Michigan have no option but to think about, thanks to Rick’s insanely ill-advised new advertising strategy. Titled ‘Rombo’ , the weirdest thirty seconds you’ll ever see, show a Mitt Romney look-alike “trying to fire a mud gun in the direction of a Rick Santorum cut-out. As the spot progresses the Romney character becomes increasingly frustrated with his inability to hit Rick Santorum with his mud-firing gun. The final visual shows the gun backfiring, and covering Romney in his own mud.” That’s the description from Rick’s own campaign website, by the way.

Now watch the ad. And you tell me what that ‘mud’ looks like:

Here’s a man who’s spent the last few years alternately complaining about ‘incivility’ in political discourse, and trying to sue Google for allowing his name to be so unequivocally associated with bum slurry. And this is the ad he chooses to run. Some people have speculated that it’s an inside job; that the Santorum campaign is being sabotaged from within. After all, how else would such a zealous homophobe end up with a fundraising campaign called Conservatives Unite Moneybomb?

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