Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

November 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

SELLING PROGRESSIVISM....The Center for American Progress is test marketing four TV commercials that "explain the progressive movement's core values and policy ideas, its historical accomplishments, and its philosophical differences with conservatives." You can see all four here.

So which one do you like best? Dana Goldstein's favorite is the one on the top right, which is the softest of the bunch. Rick Perlstein, who prefers a more distinct contrast with conservatism, likes all of them except the one on the top right. I'm pretty much with Rick, though my favorite is the one on the top left, which features (a) the contrast Rick likes, along with (b) a kick-ass narrator who softens the edges a bit. Watch 'em all and cast your vote in comments.

Kevin Drum 3:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (99)

Bookmark and Share

I wonder what it's like to be that narrator guy. He's done about ten thousands ads on both sides of every imaginable political issue. Who is he?

Posted by: scarshapedstar on November 19, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

The top-left is best to me, but I also like all of the except the top-right. The top right could be most parties, so it's too vague and 'squishy' (if an ad could be such a thing...)

Posted by: jeff in chicago on November 19, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Top left. You need to spell it out that conservatives were against things like National Parks, because as jeff-in-chicago says, it seems like apple pie stuff now. I couldn't even bring myself to click the Mac/PC clone ad. I'd rather see an All Your Base Belong to Us ad, if it comes to that.

Posted by: Tim on November 19, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Why does Kevin Drum hate American prosperity?

Posted by: Wingut Retard on November 19, 2007 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Tim. The top left ad is the best. Nice straighforward branding of progressivism. The Mac/PC thing is so played out now. Why not a "where's the beef?" parody? Still, the direct comparisons they make in the bottom right ad are pretty good. Just find an original format for them, OK, guys?

Posted by: Rob Mac on November 19, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

I vote for the one that sells liberalism. Where is that one?

Posted by: bob on November 19, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Bottom left -- funny and to the point. Although I hate that none of them use the word liberal. We need to take that word back instead of running from it.

Posted by: Teresa on November 19, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

The top right one forgot to mention....
Progressive is pro-science.

Posted by: Paul Dirks on November 19, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Top left wins by quite a bit. The two bottom commercials are obvious rip-offs of the mac/pc commercials. people will not pay attention to those because they will think they are something else. Top left gets the message across clear and simple.

Posted by: Stuart Shiffman on November 19, 2007 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

I like both of the ones on the left, but top left best.

Posted by: David on November 19, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

The top left is definitely the best. I like the content, narration, and the direct all-American critique of conservatives. The top right has essentially the same content but, as Kevin says, is softer. Why be soft about something we are suppoesed to be proud of?

I'm moving to Canada if either of the Mac/Windows spoofs gets air time. First of all, they are a not very clever rip off. Secondly, they put forward exactly the kind of snide, superior, smug stereotype that conservatives pay millions to tar us with. Why do their work for them?

Posted by: Nonplussed on November 19, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

In my opinion, this is a bit like trying to argue whether Yale of Harvard is the better school. All four ads are outstanding, and this is the general direction we should be pushing, hard. I think the drinking water gag in lower right is a little flat, but that's an expression of taste about one gag, not a comment on "direction." They're all great. More, please.

Posted by: Martin on November 19, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Top left, certainly. The Mac/PC ones are a stale concept.

Posted by: Rob S. on November 19, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

From Best to Worst:

1. Top Left. Best for all the reasons stated. The Wilford Brimley-ish narrator could be a *little* more clear in his enunciation, however.

2. Bottom Right. Good parody of the Apple ads, and focused on the idea of government that works.

3. Bottom Left. Not as focused as #2, and the dialogue is somewhat awkward.

4. Top Right. Too vague and impressionistic. Too easily ignored.

Posted by: ppf on November 19, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Upper left gets disqualified because of the smarmy narrator - he's like the worst of your run-of-the-mill commercial.
I like the upper right and lower left ones.

Posted by: Bette on November 19, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

I liked the top-left too. When I showed them to my girlfriend, my roommate, and my roommate's girlfriend (all of whom are the kind of "vaguely left-of-center, only pay attention at election time" voters I presume these ads are aimed at), however, they unanimously and enthusiastically preferred the top-right. They felt the top-left one was just a typical, petty political ad exaggerating the faults of the other side, while the one with the soundtrack on the top-right was genuinely inspiring.

All of us, of course, hated the totally played-out Mac/PC rip-offs.

Posted by: Dave on November 19, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Top left, by far.

It's time to be confrontational.

When they were asking in the mac/PC ads if the conservative was "for" antying, they picked the wrong choice.

"I'm for tax cuts for the rich!" = ineffective.
"I'm for torture!" = bingo.

Posted by: An Anonymous American Patriot on November 19, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Who are these ads trying to persuade?

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 19, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

More importantly, the Mac/PC parody puts progressives in the Mac role, that of the underdog, since PCs are still numerically dominant (though not technologically superior). This mischaracterizes progressive values, which, as the top left ad points out, are really mainstream values and long-accepted traditions of the majority of Americans.

Posted by: bloglogger on November 19, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Bottom right seems most effective to me. Concrete and current.

Posted by: jccw on November 19, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Top left, smarmy narrator and all. The National Parks issue makes the contrast brilliantly clear. It's just so easy to imagine Bush & co. opposing national parks while despoiling the land for their own private gain...

Posted by: Detroit Dan on November 19, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I deliberately wrote my comment above before I read any of the other comments. And I am just shocked that nobody is put off by the narrator in the upper left item.

Posted by: Bette on November 19, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

There seems to be a consensus forming that the top left is the best, against which I offer a couple of counterarguments:

1) The most recent achievement touted in that ad is from the freaking New Deal. If you want to run an ad that invites a conservative response (no matter how tendentious) about how "progressives" don't have any new ideas, are living in the past, etc., this should do the trick.

2) The ad doesn't mention any foreign policy achievements or goals. In an election cycle where foreign policy is probably the biggest single issue. Again, this begs conservatives hit back about how progressives don't pay sufficient attention to national security (think wolves in a forest).

Top left ad: objectively terrible.

(I leave it as an excercise to the reader to understand why the term "progressive" is hampering in both regards. E.g., "liberal internationalism" implies a foreign policy - "progressive internationalism" sounds like a cuisine.)

Posted by: bob on November 19, 2007 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

I really have a lot of trouble with this whole progressive vs. conservative thing. Really think it is very, very counterproductive.

We don't need to be demonizing conservatives, we need to be demonizing republicans.

Posted by: Econobuzz on November 19, 2007 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Top left. The bottom left Mac/PC clone isn't too bad, either. The top right is worthless as no one will even pay enough attention to it to care one way or the other.

Posted by: AJ on November 19, 2007 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

I like them all.

Posted by: veloer on November 19, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

The top right looks like a car ad. The two bottom ads look like they're selling computers. The top left looks like the History Channel; the narrative seems to have stopped before Pearl Harbor.

FOCUS -- the first question is who are we trying to persuade, and only then comes: how?

Who are they trying to persuade? I've watched 'em, and I don't get it. Trying to move everybody in general often means you move nobody in particular.

Dave (sort of inadvertently) highlights the real problem with these ads -- guessing that they're aimed at the vaguely left of center folks who only pay attention close to the election, he finds that a couple folks like that ONLY like the softest ad: the one that identifies progressives as pro-national parks.

Yeah, that's a branding exercise that can mold the future. But what do we do if conservatives don't try to cork Old Faithful?

The most successful political branding exercise in the last generation was the Contract with America in 1994.

Before that, it was Reagan's 1980 question: "When you go into the voting both, before you pull that lever, ask yourself: am I better off than I was four years ago?"

Those are the benchmarks for this kind of exercise. ANYBODY think these ads come close?

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 19, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Oh My God! Now conservatives and Rove will swift boat us progressives like we have never seen before. I am so afraid of their attacks. Why can't we all keep quite till we win in 2008.

Posted by: DianeChuckNancyHarry on November 19, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Top left is least pathetic, which isn't saying much. First, as somebody said on the ad site, "If the idea is to draw away voters that believe themselves to be Conservative, you can’t tell them that they’re all a bunch of heartless money-grubbers." And second, you can make the distinctions a lot more appealing than "we were for it and they were agin it."

Posted by: Keith on November 19, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

I question the utility of any of them. All four throw around the terms "progressive" and "conservative" as if people in American use those terms regularly and have a clear (or the same) understanding of them that AP does. My sense is most people hear those terms and say, "Ummm ... who's that?" Or use "Democrat" and "Republican." Likewise, I agree with those who have said, "who are these ads trying to win over?" Certainly not an undecided voter. I think most (mostly male) undecided middle class voters think of themselves as "conservative" and would be offended, rather than swayed, by this. More inside the beltway stuff.

Posted by: Pat on November 19, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

I hope they don't forget the to include the following, if they hope to get the attention of the average American.

- A couple of bodacious chicks dressed like Daisy Duke or like rap video "hos."

- A big pick-up truck.

- Team sports imagery (football, er, I mean soccer need not apply).

- A tractor or some other farm machinery (Ma-chines rule! here in 'Merica)

- An eagle and/or the flag.

Posted by: JeffII on November 19, 2007 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

No kidding Jeff. I've always found that the best way to persuade people to vote for your cause is to make fun of their cultural preferences and values, especially when they differ from yours.

Posted by: Homer on November 19, 2007 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

The top left one is the most straight to the point, the rest are pretty weak, IMO. The jangly Woodie Guthrie banjo theme in the top right is corny and the Mac vs. PC thing is unoriginal and played out.

Also, stop being afraid to call yourself "liberals."

Posted by: Old Hat on November 19, 2007 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

The forst two make me proud of my liberal past. Progressives (or liberals) accomplished some great things. But, they've done little in the last 30 years that compares with their past achievements.

The last 2 are more effective, because they attack an unfairly demonized version of conservatives. That approach will always work.

Posted by: ex-liberal on November 19, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

The stuff about getting women the right to vote and national parks is nice but how about something about Democrats being better than Republicans at stuff like winning world wars (the score is 2-0), economic stewardship and rising wages for the average American? Talk about the voter's wallet. I doubt most people have any idea what FDR looked like.

No one really has the time to give a shit about owls and Susan B. Anthony if they're struggling to pay for gas, rent and health care.

Posted by: Old Hat on November 19, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

But, they've done little in the last 30 years that compares with their past achievements.

What about the unparalleled economic prosperity, world prestige and military power under the Clinton Administration. Truly one of this country's high water marks.

Posted by: Old Hat on November 19, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Jeff: once a Know-Nothing, always...

The Mac ad that aired just once during the 1984 Super Bowl is another benchmark. Ridley Scott directed it for Chiat Day. With the direct reference to "why 1984 won't be like 1984", Apple was aiming directly at the folks who were about to buy desktop computers -- how many folks like THAT never read 1984 or didn't know what it mean?

(How many folks to whom these ads are trying to brand progressivism will have no clue what those marchers are about, or why we're looking at car ad imagery for national parks?)

It was also a similar MESSAGE sort of ad to these progressive branding pieces: they're supposed to define progressives in contrast to conservatives.

Apple's 1984 ad had the image of Big Brother talking to all the drones "Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives... a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory thoughts. Our Unification of Thought is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause...."

Then the runner shows up (a discus athlete, I think), and throws a sledgehammer through the screen. The announcer reads the scroll: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like 1984."

Three points: 1) The Apple ad knew EXACTLY who it was trying to sell. Do these progressive spots?

2) The Apple ad was precisely timed for the imagery: the IBM PC had been steadily gaining market share, it was well on the way to dominance, which is literally what Apple was trying to smash: the primary image in the spot. What's the timing for the imagery in the ThinkProgress ads? And --

3) There is nothing particularly interesting about the OTHER images, the attempt to define conservative in these ads. Progressives are supposed to be John Cougar Mellencamp inspiring with the song and the park pix, like the History Channel footage -- but in the end, it's Tweedledum in a suit and tie, and Tweedledee in shirtsleeves.

Compare the way the Apple ad defined IBM (without saying the name) as Big Brother and the Mac as creativity (and hot young athletic women smashing things) through sheer imagery.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 19, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

No kidding Jeff. I've always found that the best way to persuade people to vote for your cause is to make fun of their cultural preferences and values, especially when they differ from yours. Posted by: Homer

The "cultural preferences" ("cultural"? Jesus) I lampoon are what make too many Americans what they are and why they are different from the majority of the posters here (Al, Egbert and the other [un]usual suspects excepted, of course).

More important, most Americans can't be bothered to educate themselves about the issues, they function on a much lower, sensory plain. That's why I suggest cleavage and machinery if you hope to, at least, catch their attention. Ever since "Morning In American," too much of America has been responding to this and all the other lower cortex jump-up-and-down-like-the-apes-in-2001 "hot button" issues - gays, guns, abortion, "terrism," etc., etc.

American politics has been at the knuckle-dragging level for so long now that I don't think it's possible to dumb it down any further just to bring in another 1/2 of 1% of those people that can even be bothered to vote. This applies to all the nonsense of trying to find common ground with conservative "Christians."

Homer, if, at this point, most Americans aren't ready to lynch the better part of the Bush administration, I don't think well done television ads are going to turn the tide. In fact, since Americans are also need to have their wishes gratified within a really short time span, even if god were elected president he couldn't work enough magic in six years let alone six days to fix most of what both parties have allowed to be fucked up since 2001. So, even if HRC or Obama or Edwards was elected, none would wield the power even to get their own congressional caucus headed in the right direction.

Posted by: JeffII on November 19, 2007 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

To Know Nothing Jeff:

Fuck you.


a genuine progressive (who kinda likes America)

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 19, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Top left.

The bottom two have a gotcha, playing-with-words, strawman quality that makes them unconvincing to the not-already-convinced. Speaking personally, top right brings tears to my eye, but it will remind centrists that although progressives are correct, morally and in the long run, in the short run they bring rancor to our national life.

Posted by: Andy McLennan on November 19, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

I like the bottom left the best by far.

Posted by: Daniel McGraw on November 19, 2007 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with you Kevin. I like the one on the top left the best. Reason? It mentions "Social Security!" right up front, within just a few seconds. Highlighting the opposition with the old footage makes it more dramatic as well. The "America at its Best" slogan is pretty decent, too.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 19, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

The bottom 2 are the best. They're clear and simple. And the format worked for Apple.

Top right is mush. Top left needs work.

Posted by: ferd on November 19, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

I go for the top left as well.

The top right doesn't explicitly draw a contrast. Lots of people who call themselves conservative are fooling themselves that the people they vote for aren't generally against those things, so they are just going to go, "yea, us conservatives are for all that too!". Remember those polls where huge percentages of republican voters thought Bush held all sorts of positions exactly the opposite of what he did?

The bottom two, besides having the lame apple add thing explicitly feature one guy up there pretending to be a 'conservative'. So the add is overtly dishonest. Why not just have an actual animated straw man? At least that would be funny.

The top left one did mention civil rights, which is well after the new deal. The 60's-70's environmental movement is also at least alluded too.

As to why they don't say Democrats and Republicans... well it isn't Democrats vs Republicans. There are and have been Democrats on the wrong side of most of these issues, and there used to be Republicans on the right side and may be again.

PS: Duh there haven't been any huge progressive accomplishments in the past 30 years, those 30 years were the most recent ascendancy of the right. The one attempt was Clinton's stab at health care, and it failed. The big changes in America in the past 30 years have been the right wing sort: corruption, inequality, military spending, increasing prison populations, decaying infrastructure, debt, less progressive taxation, fear.

Posted by: jefff on November 19, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think running the top left and bottom right back to back would be the most effective. Show the progressive history and bring it into the present.

By themselves, the ads won't do that much good. But as the beginning of a campaign, it's a decent start.

I'd see these ads targeted at the middle to right leaning voters who are abandoning Bush and looking for something else, young voters who need to be introducted to progressivism and feel-good candy for progressives.

Posted by: tomeck on November 19, 2007 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

I especially liked the way the top left one displayed the abbreviations pro and con to suggest for and against.

Posted by: anandine on November 19, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that top right seems way too much like the "Our Country" GM commercials, but on an irrational level I found the music powerful.

All of them seemed smug and tendentious, and unlikely to have a positive effect on anyone not already in the right camp. Is it wise to try to sell someone a political philosophy in 30 seconds?

It's also interesting that the environment seems to me anyway to be the strongest selling point in all four ads. No major politician talks about that issue much.

Posted by: Wesley on November 19, 2007 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

I think they're all pretty weak. Who is the Progressive Party running for president?

Seriously, these ads look like they were crafted by a progressive Karen Hughes trying to convince Arab women all they need is the vote.

Posted by: TJM on November 19, 2007 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

top left

Posted by: Lee on November 19, 2007 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

I don't much like the parodies of the Apple "switch" commercials, but well— given who pays my salary, that's probably no surprise. I could go either way on the other two.

Posted by: j h woodyatt on November 19, 2007 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

ex-thinker: Progressives have "...done little in the last 30 years that compares with their past achievements."

Yeah, it took the cons a while to figure out how to game the system, but they've got it wired now, baby.

I like anything that illuminates Repub intransigence and isolationism. Just using the terms Pro and Con helps a lot. Sorry, but I like them all. And the bottom right shows how progressives still take care of people even when they don't "earn" it. Kidding, sort of.

Posted by: Kenji on November 19, 2007 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Is it wise to try to sell someone a political philosophy in 30 seconds?"

They say there are no stupid questions, but there sure does seem to be a lot of inquisitive pinheads...

Posted by: s9 on November 19, 2007 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Who is the Progressive Party running for president?" - TJM

Exactly my thought. Oh, I know, Ralph Nader.

Posted by: nepeta on November 19, 2007 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Top right. If the goal is to (re)introduce progressivism, it's more powerful to say what you are instead of what "they" aren't. It may be a good campaign tactic, but absent a specific campaign, why why limit your view to us/them, black/white?

Posted by: Gray on November 19, 2007 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Top Left is best of the bunch. Top right is way too soft. I do not like the bottom ones because they're rip-offs. And I do not like general/simplistic statements like "conservatives don't like clean drinking water." No one wants dirty drinking water. Just like we don't "don't support the troops" because we think the war was a mistake.

Posted by: jrr1646 on November 19, 2007 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

...yeah nobody wants clean drinking water, but some oppose the Clean Water Act... Desires and actions can part company at times.

I suspect the top left might get pretty wearisome after 100 viewings.

Still, they are all fine.

And they all have a point. This isn't about winning on any particular issue: it's about rebranding "Progressive" and "Conservative".

Posted by: Measure for Measure on November 19, 2007 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

Top left is top notch. But put it in a cycle with one of the 'hip' ads, to target a different part of the mind and demographic. I don't really like the mac ripoffs, and they're too thin on specifics. But if the conservative said 'I'm FOR torture', that would be awesome.

Posted by: lampwick on November 19, 2007 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

Prediction: these ads will close in New Haven.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 19, 2007 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with you Kevin. Didn't like the song one. I thought the one on the bottom left was the best. Bottom right-- too much environmental stuff. I also agree that we need more recent examples.

Posted by: gfw on November 19, 2007 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

nepeta: "Oh, I know, Ralph Nader."

(Sigh!) I only wish the family would do the right thing, have the guy declared incompetent, and then place him in a nice rest home.

Measure for Measure: "[I]t's about rebranding 'Progressive' and 'Conservative'."

Count me in! I'm all for re-branding conservatives. You go ahead and stoke the fire, and I'll get the "Bar W" iron.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on November 19, 2007 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

If progressives are going to give history lessons, does that mean they'll be mentioning progressive advocacy in favor of forced sterilizations, for people who score low on I.Q. tests?

Posted by: Will Allen on November 19, 2007 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

A sober, and extremely sobering, assessment of the latest draconian "Big Brother" legislation from Congress. Better make any calls for violence while you still can, America!

Once upon a time, such revolutionary sentiments in the pursuit of freedom and justice were deemed wholly righteous in these Colonies; now they're speciously dubbed "homegrown terrorism" by our would-be "betters":

Here Come the Thought Police
by Ralph E. Shaffer and R. William Robinson
[The Baltimore Sun]

With overwhelming bipartisan support, Rep. Jane Harman's "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" passed the House 404-6 late last month and now rests in Sen. Joe Lieberman's Homeland Security Committee. Swift Senate passage appears certain.

Not since the "Patriot Act" of 2001 has any bill so threatened our constitutionally guaranteed rights. ...

Note especially the "seditious" intent ascribed to the Internet:

Ms. Harman's proposal includes an absurd attack on the Internet, criticizing it for providing Americans with "access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda," and legalizes an insidious infiltration of targeted organizations. The misnamed "Center of Excellence," which would function after the commission is disbanded in 18 months, gives the semblance of intellectual research to what is otherwise the suppression of dissent. ...

As the authors suggest in the full essay, it's a whole-hearted invitation to a new, sweeping era of McCarthyism, or worse -- one our supposed "Representatives" approved almost unanimously!

"What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?"
~ Thomas Jefferson

"Violence can be used for good ... Justice."
~ V

Posted by: Poilu on November 19, 2007 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think any of them will do much good, but the one at the top left isn't absolutely horrible.

The copies of the Apple ads are obvious copies, and pale copies at that. "It's like the Mac/PC ad, but lame" drowns out any message.

The top right doesn't provide enough historical contrast like the top left, and so gives a "so what" feeling. It might as well say "pro-cute puppy".

Posted by: cmdicely on November 19, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I will be all alone in prefering the bottom right. Maybe the IBM v Apple thing is stupid. But what I liked about the ad was: a) it starts out with the big picture, progressives believe that government has a positive role to play in making people's lives better, then it moves on to specifics such as health care, the environment; and b) because it talks about current issues. I am with the others here, the top two ads are all about the past. What do progressives stand for NOW? I mean, do you really think that conservatives come right out and say that we should simply eliminate social security? No, they talk about improving it, or making it more secure for the future, even if their real objective is to get rid of it. Except for Ann Coulter, do conservatives say that women shouldn't vote? No. Do conservatives say that we should reinstitute Jim Crow? No. Talking about the past is kind of silly in this context.

Posted by: Cap and Gown on November 19, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

I already told ya tA. Your mom called and wants her arrogance back...do you hate your mother?

And you were donging so good, too...

So, on a serious tip. What is "your" ideal plan to progress the progressive agenda? What "type" of ad would you run? I mean, you're the brains in the bunch. So what would you do?

Bet you cannot do it without pandering to the right. Retard. You see, they are just playing you(if you not trying to play us, that is).

So, Paul. What is your plan? Seriously.

Posted by: elmo on November 19, 2007 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK


- the mighty Elmo

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 19, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

I discussed the ads - focusing on why they're misleading - here.

I even made a video in their honor:


(See which one of the "progressive" policies at the first link Kevin Drum should feel an especial affinity for, after I tell you that WM has a habit of deleting or editing comments without notice.)

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on November 19, 2007 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

The two at the botttom seriously suck. Ripping off an Apple commercial is not a good start. Particularly since its an amateur imitation that pales in comparison with the originals. And using an absurd conservative that everyone will recognize as a straw man is not helpful. It will piss anyone off who is not inclined to agree.

Posted by: AF on November 19, 2007 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, theAmerichrist, in a serious manner, what the fuck would you do? (bet he does not answer, seriously.)

Posted by: elmo on November 19, 2007 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Bottom left all the way. It does rip-off the Mac ad, but it does it well. It's funny and makes the point.....and pretty aggressively. Top left and top right are fine but honestly they are old school and the idea is to get independents to see themselves voting Democratic, not to preach to the converted.

Posted by: Stacy on November 19, 2007 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

the Ameritard responds in...


)do not worry, it will be a BOOK when it comes(

Posted by: elmo(the mighty) on November 19, 2007 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Bottom left Apple ad. Kids will dig it, and that's whom we need to reach now.

Posted by: Happy Dog on November 19, 2007 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

I skipped therapy today, Paul...(please send the F.B.I to my house!!!)

Posted by: elmo MIGHTY elmo on November 19, 2007 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

"Democrats being better than Republicans at stuff like winning world wars (the score is 2-0),..."-Old Hat

Political parties do not win wars, nations do. National leaders from both parties, citizens from both parties, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines from every political perception win wars.

Posted by: majarosh on November 19, 2007 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

You have no plan, Paul. Just arrogance. That and a pound of fat gets me fried in a kRove BBQ. No thanks...

Posted by: elmo on November 19, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Like I told you before, Paul. The pussy is still wet...and you're still soft...

Posted by: elmo on November 19, 2007 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

OK, theAmericanist, have it your way.

I'll wait for tomorrow morning before you "decide" to respond...or not...(don't act like you aint readn' this shit, bitch)

Posted by: elmo the mighty? on November 20, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with others who regret that none of these advertisements proudly supports liberal ideas, philosophy, goals and successes. Liberal is my brand.

Nobody has said anything about Iraq, and aside from a rant by Poilu, nobody has mentioned "homeland security"; I agree with bob that "this begs conservatives hit back about how progressives don't pay sufficient attention to national security." (Bob's is the only comment so far to use the words "national security."

Republicans and Conservatives have fooled many people into believing that their strong, go-it-alone, must-be-second-to-none, "stand tall," damn-the-U.N., diplomacy-deprecating, nuclear-mispronouncing, cooperation-vilifying, reality-denying approach is best. Actually, it is a complete disaster, as events of the past six years have established. Liberals need to show that cooperation, diplomacy, carrots-and-sticks, and reality-based generates more security at lower financial costs and fewer deaths and injuries to our brave young men and women.

Let's face it: Iraq is the Republicans' worst issue right now, and this is where liberals need to hit hard.

Republicans: half a trillion dollars flushed down the toilet; Iraq is worse off, America is poorer, thousands dead and tens of thousands of amputees. Conservatism is the wrong approach to national security.

Respectfully submitted,

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on November 20, 2007 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans: Thank you:: http://icasualties.org/oif/

More to come...RIGHT?

Posted by: elmo on November 20, 2007 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Come out and stop your cryn' tA, we both know that it burns. I wont hurt ya...

Posted by: elmo on November 20, 2007 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

I like upper right the best, though upper left is a pretty decent ad. Please no more Mac v. PC parodies.

Posted by: Me2d on November 20, 2007 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

I'm often silent when I'm screaming inside, too, theAmerican't...

Posted by: elmo on November 20, 2007 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

I like the one on the lower left the best. It really smacks them around while coming across all nice and folksy. Plus, by aping the Mac/PC ads, it comes across as hip and relevant (tragic that that should be so, but there you are).

Posted by: craigie on November 20, 2007 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Cap and gown, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

And you must be a Princetonian. I'm a former TI member.

Keep the faith!

Posted by: gfw on November 20, 2007 at 1:44 AM | PERMALINK

I'll join the crowd and vote top left. Would be nice to see additional ads in this style citing more recent achievements. Of course, I'm not sure what the progressive movement has accomplished lately....

Top right doesn't provide enough reference, and I don't think most people will get it on their own.

The Mac vs PC takeoffs are also too boring to me; if there's going to be a signature character to the ads then something more unique / interesting would be better (like the geico gecko, or whatever).

Posted by: Rebecca on November 20, 2007 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

Being as how Elmo ain't worth shit... if anybody else wants an illustration, ask.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 20, 2007 at 6:19 AM | PERMALINK

Bottom two ads really sucked.

The progressive looks like Central Casting's idea of a grad school drop-out now temping at a law firm.

The conservative looks like Central Casting's idea of a supermarket manager or similar middle management schmuck.

Can't we have the progressive look more like an ordinary American? Instead, we have a smarmy creep I'd pay to be able to slap the shit out of.

And why isn't the conservative looking more potent, more ominous? He looks like a nice but befuddled dude who wouldn't hurt a fly.

My sense is, if he's a progressive's idea of a conservative, than most Americans want the conservative.

No wonder the right keeps kicking our asses.

Posted by: Auto on November 20, 2007 at 7:09 AM | PERMALINK

Auto nails it: so (though he didn't ask, and may not like it), what the hell --

Like I said, the first thing is to figure out your target audience, and what you want 'em to DO. Apple's 1984 ad teased people with the Mac's debut right after the Super Bowl when they saw the ad, telling 'em to find out why 1984 won't be like "1984": a good model.

(When I was reviewing ads for who to hire back in the day, I remember our reactions -- I won't name the political consultants who did the ones that made us say, gee, I like this, or wow, that's cool, but the late Frank Greer's ads weren't like that: they made you want to actually do something NOW. That's what you want.)

Folks have speculated these ads target vaguely left of center folks who only pay attention right before an election: maybe, but I doubt it. (Personally, I think these ads were made by people because THEY liked the message.) Meck blithely figures they're aimed at people who are alienated from Bush (well, THAT narrows it down), while somebody rightly pointed out on the source's thread that if you're trying to convince folks who think of themselves as conservatives that they are really progressives, maybe telling 'em that they should stop being greedy and hating national parks isn't the best way to get 'em to say: hey, that's ME!

Historically, the folks we're talking about were known as Reagan Democrats (in the elections 1980, 84, and 88), then as "white ethnics" in '92, '96, and Y2K; they're also called 'values voters', though they all overlap a lot. (The best illustration of targetting I know was a great cartoon of Venn diagrams once: one circle was a big "NRA members"; another was a small "home brewers". The large-ish intersection? "Civil War re-enactors.")

It's hard to tell who these ads are aimed at, and they don't want people to do anything, except the one weak message 'identify with progressives' told in the most off-putting way possible: the prescriptive "That's you." Half the audience that does respond (considerably less than half the audience) is gonna think: sez who?

And Auto is right about why they don't work as identification ads: who wants to BE the nerdy progressive, and who can genuinely loathe the porky conservative?

The thing is, these ads all try to EXPLAIN in order to persuade. But it's more effective to show than tell, especially when you want folks to respond by identifying with the message. So (not to degenerate into a creative discussion) call this one "Campers", 60 seconds:

Open with a couple pickups parking offroad in the mountains -- a field, a stream, woods on the far side, mountains in the distance. (Lots of crosscuts, but steady narrative in voices.) HUSBAND gets out. "I hate labels." Reaches in back, takes recurve bow out of case. WIFE comes around. "And he really hates politicians."

HUSBAND: "Always patting you on the back, with their hand in your pocket. People should mean what they say. I believe in a person's WORD."

WIFE puts cameras on hood, while HUSBAND is messing with arrows, talks to camera. "She comes up here to take long walks. Not like my sister."

Cut to SISTER getting out of other pickup, takes compound bow out of her case. HUSBAND "This is our first trip since she got back from Iraq."

SISTER (with cheery bravado): "Most of me."

HUSBAND: "That's her husband." (TALL OLDER GUY, African American with great posture comes around truck.)

HUSBAND: "Our son usually comes with us, but he's teaching an IT class.... (incredulous) in Provo."

WIFE (explaining his incredulity): He's gay.

HUSBAND (to camera, sincerely belligerent): "You got a problem with that?

WIFE walks past, lays hand on his arm briefly, goes to help TALL OLDER GUY with tent bags.

HUSBAND (he loves the words): "We, the People. Conservatives, fifty years ago..."

SISTER (walking up): "They'd have kept the laws that made my marriage illegal."

WIFE (putting down bag) "We the People broke that rule."

(Quick cut to mud where they are standing) TALL OLDER GUY (with casual, you already know this tone to WIFE): "We'll just go to the high ground."

(Very brief shot of all four lined up in classic rising face style, then everybody moves with the camera sense of 'this is TOO corny')

TALL OLDER GUY (hand on HUSBAND's shoulder) "Remember we came up here, after you were born again?"

WIFE: 25 years ago, conservatives wanted to strip mine this place.

SISTER (after making just the subtlest limp): "Public land, private profit."

HUSBAND (picking up his bow): "Me, I believe in stewardship. Conservatives - they're stuck in the past." (sound of mud squishing under his boot)

HUSBAND: We, the People, tell the (gestures as he struggles not to swear) politicians, what to do. We have choices to make. I want America to move forward. That's why I'm a progressive, not a 'conservative'.

WIFE: Okay, Honest Abe.

TALL OLDER GUY (teasing both HUSBAND and WIFE): Teddy Roosevelt.

SISTER (impatiently): Let's roll.

(Pull away to WIFE and TALL OLDER GUY carrying tent bags, hammer, etc., up a slope, while HUSBAND and SISTER go off bowhunting.)

Slogan comes up: PROGRESSIVES (in Constitution script) We, the People (back to modern font) Moving America Forward.

Casting notes: HUSBAND -- think Ted Nugent without the guitar. Audience should assume he's a successful carpenter or something. WIFE -- professional woman, outdoorsy. The looks she gives her husband should be loving and convey part of their shtick is that she never lets him take himself too seriously; we should hear her thinking 'but I ALWAYS get good pictures' when he is loading his arrows, since he rarely actually shoots anything. SISTER --- mid-20s, hot, kick-ass grrrl. TALL OLDER GUY -- we should somehow realize that he's a military chaplain, roughly HUSBAND's age.

Message note: Audience should never doubt that ALL of these people vote -- and would be pissed off at you, if you didn't. Also -- the word "stewardship" is key to reaching pro-environment people of faith; it should have NO political meaning when HUSBAND says it, conveyed by TALL OLDER GUY's presence in the shot. Experiment with imagery -- should he wear a cross?

Targetting note: Naturally, the actual demographic represented by the actors is small -- evangelical white couple with grown gay son, a combat wounded sibling and an African American in-law. But there is a MUCH larger audience that will have a direct connection with some part of that constellation, and the decisively large target are the significant numbers of suburban voters who want to identify with the various images and messages in the spot: dislike of politics, tolerance, environmental stewardship, the sense that the American people are better than we've been getting.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 20, 2007 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

I don't watch TV so I never saw Mac/PC ads. I just thought the one on the bottom left was really cute. . . but then I tend to like snide, superior and smug--maybe run it only in the 20 and 30 something market. But I didn't like the "Aren't you a progressive?" at the end. I like the "That's you" of the top left better because the whole of the top left ad just reminded everyone that they do want all the things government now does because of Progressive administrations. No question about it is necessary. The top right was fine for markets where not offending anyone is key.

Posted by: allys gift on November 20, 2007 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

TOp left is best.

Besides, PC's have, like 90% market share compared to macs. I don't see how "we're cool and expensive" is going to fight the "limousine latte liberal" stereotype.

Posted by: anon on November 20, 2007 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Political parties do not win wars, nations do. National leaders from both parties, citizens from both parties, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines from every political perception win wars.

So the soldiers lost Iraq? The brass who told Bush and Rummy their lack of a plan and lack of boots would lose Iraq and got fired for their honesty...lost Iraq? The 70-something percent of Americans who are telling Bush--who hasn't listened to anyone on this list, soldier or statesman--that he's lost Iraq...are the real losers of Iraq?

You conveniently underestimate the power and influence of a commander in chief. I would, too, if I'd voted for a royal fuckup like Bush. Worst president AND worst commander-in-chief in American history. How embarrassing for you.

Posted by: express written consent on November 20, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Paul, I like it...

Posted by: elmo on November 20, 2007 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

I like the attempt to create historical context that both left hand ads emphasize but I'd present it in reserve chronological order:

"Before conservatives tried to privitazie Social Security, they fought against its creation . . "

"Before conservatives opposed national health care reform, they opposed Medicare . . . "

"Before conservatives fought against raising the minimum wage, they fought against the eight-hour work day . . "

We're progressives . . we've been fighting on your side all along."

Posted by: Bart Preecs on November 20, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Bart -- but that's a speech, not a TV spot.

For one thing, it is also telling, not showing, and for another, it creates a distance between "we", and "you", even though the tagline is "on your side all along".

The bottom line is that these ads aren't very good.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 20, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Nice post, theAmericanist.

One problem I had was that the metamessage seemed to be: "these are nice folks even if they tolerate gays and complain about Iraq."

I think that I prefer, "We have all these great progressive programs -- which conservatives opposed every step of the way."

Frankly though, I think that any single 30 second spot will be vulnerable to one attack or another. So run more than one. Some should be bland, others pointed.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on November 20, 2007 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

... aside from a rant by Poilu, nobody has mentioned "homeland security"

Joel: Obviously you've never seen me actually "rant". ;-)

No, that was merely an "interjecting" news post to expound on a legislative development of profound significance.

But then, I frequently tire of some of Kevin's posts here, which strike me as fairly trivial and are remarkably remniscent of a scene I vaguely recall as being from the film "Fahrenheit 451" (though it may have been "1984"). In that, the commentator on the permananently enabled, wall-sized "tele-vid" screen frequently pauses to stare vacuously at the presumed viewer and perfunctorily asks, "What do YOU think, citizen?" (as though it would really matter), just before shuffling on briskly to "other discussions"..

Posted by: Poilu on November 20, 2007 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

I still like my idea best...


Posted by: elmo on November 20, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

I liked the top right best. The top left one is too contentious. The top right one is disarming. You don't object to it. You might enjoy the music. You could view it in the background a hundred times without objecting to it. It could sink into your consciousness. The top left one raises hackles if you disagree with it.

I agree with many posts above that the content of all of them were weak. Rather than run one of these I'd like to see them go back and rework them. It is a problem that most of the accomplishments are from long ago.

Here is an interesting litany of Democratic accomplishments. I don't know if it was a real letter but it is a good list.


Posted by: JohnK on November 21, 2007 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK

I like the top left ad the best -- it's clear and informative. The top right ad practically screams "time for emotional conditioning!" with the music. I disliked both of the bottom ads, partly because the Mac/PC approach is already cliche, but even more so because (like the Mac/PC ads) they demonize one section of the audience, something that is more likely to put peoples' backs up than to sway them toward change. Ads that seem intended to make people realize that maybe they could identify with "progressive" won't accomplish it by denigrating the label they've identified with previously.

Posted by: Gwen on November 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly