By Phillip Martin | Monday, December 19, 2011
Dec. 19, 2011
BOSTON — The Occupy Movement in Boston and elsewhere has taken a beating in the press. While it is credited with changing the nation’s obsession from debts and deficits to income inequality, the protesters — for months camped out in tents downtown — have found their image in desperate need of repair. For a fix, they might look to a perhaps unlikely source of knowledge: the advertising industry.
While many reports have been straightforward, a good number of stories on the Occupy Movement have been informed by conservative ideology. On Fox News and on Glenn Beck’s show, the descriptions of protesters range from “lazy hippies” to “dangerous criminals.” They are referred to as socialists, atheists, and un-American.
Though replete with cultural stereotypes, exaggerations and outright falsehoods, the negative images have stuck in the minds of a good number of people. At a downtown Boston bus stop, one government employee who gave his name only as Bill said he despised the Occupy protesters as “people who don’t want to work.” Asked for his main source of news, he replied, “Nationally, I listen to some radio. I’ll listen to Glenn Beck a lot, but that’s about it.”
So when your image is sullied, your fundraising is sinking fast and a poll shows even a majority of “Millennials” have a low opinion of your movement… you might consider turning to that paragon of cultural excess and Madison Avenue self-absorption: Don Draper.
In the imaginary world of “Mad Men,” there is no product that Draper cannot sell, no image he cannot fix; perhaps even that of the Occupy Movement under assault from its detractors. Just think of this sample of his singular advice: “There is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.”
From dirty hippies to military metaphors
Roger Baldacci is a real-life ad man, the executive creative director at Arnold Worldwide in Boston. When you walk into Baldacci’s 22nd-floor office, the first things you notice are the stunning view of the city and the nearly three dozen awards sitting on his desk, including several Clio global advertising statues.
“I was going to offer you a martini or something,” Baldacci joked.
Putting himself in Draper’s shoes, how would this veteran ad exec spruce up the battered image of Occupy protesters?
“I think Don Draper would do what I would do, which is to reframe the argument,” said Baldacci. “Right now the Occupy folks they look like squatters and they’re kind of unkempt and dirty. I would turn that around and I would make them the new freedom fighters in the war against greed.”
Baldacci continued spinning out his pitch. “I would use military terms. We’re all in love with the military these days.” Instead of calling the occupation sites “camps,” Baldacci would call them… “‘forward operating bases.’ FOBS. And I would enlist members of the military, who are also part of that 99 percent, in full gear.”
That’s just one element of his Occupy re-imaging strategy. Here’s another: “I would take it to the perpetrators. I would take the fight to the CEOs, the richest CEOs in America.”
Think about it: Why occupy sites in urban centers when you can crash the CEOs’ parties? “What I might do is go a little Michael Moore on them. I might go to them and talk to them and get them on camera,” Baldacci said. “Go to the gated, tony communities where they live and let them see the 99 percent on their doorstep.”
They need a hero
“Well, if I was Don Draper I would look for a hero or heroes to represent it. It’s definitely lacking that feeling of this is someone I can relate to… you know, I get this person and want to be with them.” she said. That person would symbolize what the movement was all about.
Perhaps she means people like Ray Lewis, a retired Philadelphia police captain who was arrested in Zuccotti Park in his uniform; or perhaps an Iraq war veteran, like Jason Mazoula, a self-effacing infantryman who served in Baghdad and later joined Occupy Boston. In November, he told WGBH News, “I’m not here to improve my own lot. Over 30 percent or 35 percent of the homeless population are veterans and that’s not a coincidence.”
And once the movement finds its hero, what would Don Draper do with him or her? Kagan said: Put him on TV. But on television, the movement can control neither the image nor the message. So Kagan suggested making better use of an outlet Draper didn't have... YouTube, which is now the second most popular search engine in the world.
If the Occupy movement went that route, Kagan said, “I think making it sexy and visually interesting would still need to happen for that to be viable. But if we can show heroes — if we can show stories of what the 99 percent is doing to change the world, to improve opportunities to grow the economy — then you’ve got something interesting to show on video.”
Behind the visuals, the strategy
And that would require a unified strategy; something that’s missing from the Occupy Movement.
That’s where the advice of Tom O’Neill comes in. He’s the oldest son of former Speaker of the House “Tip” O’Neill and the president of a political strategy firm, O’Neill and Associates.
First of all, he said, no more encampments (or FOBs). “Take the success that you’ve had in occupying all these spaces across America and declare the victory,” he said. “You’ve made your point.”
Instead, since it’s a presidential election year, they should focus on getting the “99 percent” issue into the political conversation.
The goal, O’Neill said, is to be influential enough “so that the average man or woman really falls back and says ‘You know, they are at least talking to the issues that’s plaguing America; they’re at least talking about how we’re going to educate the next generation of our children; they’re at least talking about the mounting homeless in America’s streets; they’re at least talking about health care costs and what they intend to do about it.’”
Similar provocations were taking place in the 1960s in both the real world and in the imaginary world of “Mad Men.” How would Don Draper advise activists trying to end the disparities between the haves and the have-nots? It’s the same advice:
“There is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.”
Advertisers, marketers and strategists all agree with the basic premise: If the Occupy Movement in Boston and elsewhere can be made more sympathetic to the American public by highlighting its heroes and heroines and by humanizing the protesters, than its core message will become louder than the noise from its detractors.
By Sarah Birnbaum | Thursday, December 15, 2011
Dec. 16, 2011
BOSTON — The onslaught of campaign ads makes most voters dizzy — especially when they appear a full year before an election. With you the voter focusing on your job, your family and your holidays, are Massachusetts Senate candidates wasting their time and money advertising this early?
Tobe Berkovitz, a professor at Boston University whose specialty is political advertising, explained the strategy. “You want to use the advertising to try to start manipulating public opinion and moving it in your direction and also moving it against your opponent,” he said.
So let's look at two of these early ads.
Scott Brown and big oil
Have you seen this ad? It features a Scott Brown lookalike complete with barn jacket and truck, fumes spewing from his tailpipe and oil oozing from his palms.
“This is probably going after the independents who voted for Scott Brown, thought that Scott Brown was a good guy, and now what they’re trying to do is show those independents — who are, again, mostly Democrats underneath who don’t want to admit that they’re Democrats — showing them: See? You thought Scott Brown was one thing. And that’s your nice neighbor in the barn coat with the truck. But in fact he’s something else, a tool of the oil interests and big money out of Washington.”
Elizabeth Warren and the Occupy movement
A woman's voice intones, “Fourteen millions of Americans out of work. But instead of focusing on jobs, Elizabeth Warren sides with extreme-left protests.” The camera focuses on an Occupy protester’s Che Guevara sign.
Berkovitz said this ad is geared to undecided voters who don’t follow the news that much:
“What this is trying to do is sort of speak to the great unwashed out there, people who aren’t paying that much attention to politics and they’re sort of sitting in their living room watching ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and all of a sudden this comes on and says, ‘Oh, this is a scary lady.’”
Warren… and the wandering womb?
That scary lady image, and other images of female candidates looking out of control, are a staple of negative ads, said “Slate” contributor Libby Copeland.
“Elizabeth Warren in this ad is being painted as almost deranged,” Copeland said. She thought the message hearkened back to historical uneasiness “about women at the helm in executive positions and the assumptions of their hysterical nature.”
With that kind of cultural baggage, Copeland said, “When you call a woman nutty, it can be a little more effective, I believe, then if you’re throwing those accusations at a man."
The strategy behind the early start
But the timing begs the question: Why go after independents and undecided voters this early? Don’t they wait until the closing weeks of a race before making up their minds?
“What you’re trying to do now is get all this buzz going and then start moving the polls,” Berkovitz explained. “Then what you can do is say ‘See, Elizabeth Warren is on the rise,’ or ‘See, Scott Brown is holding his own.’”
The ads also target a second group: the media.
“The media is almost always the first target for these ads because what will happen is the media is obsessed with them. It’s like crack to an addict,” Berkovitz said.
Moreover, ads are an easy way for the media to start covering a campaign. Policies are complex and can make people’s eyes glaze over, Berkovitz pointed out. “But a political ad? Nothing subtle there!”
Air early and often
The frequency of these ads is also part of the strategy.
The ad linking Warren with Occupy Boston was paid for by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. The group said it spent $596,00 on the ad and that the average resident saw it 10 times.
The Scott-Brown–drenched-in-oil ad was paid for by the League of Conservation Voters, which is spending $1.85 million, or enough to make sure the average TV viewer saw the ad 25 times.
But the real circulation is much higher. The ads are usually excerpted on the news… like we’re doing here… and repeated on radio, quoted in newspapers, posted on blogs, before going viral across social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. The result: Your exposure to the ad increases tenfold.
The $1.85 million question
Campaigns are trying to shape the narrative of the candidate, move the polls and build momentum. But does it work? Can you really sway voters this early in an election — especially with ads that seem like one giant cliché?
Berkovitz said it’s hard to tell. Campaigns conduct internal polling and focus groups to see if their ads are resonating with voters but they won’t release that information.
One thing’s for sure: We’ll be seeing a lot more of these ads before Election Day 2012 is done.
By WGBH News | Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Nov. 1, 2011
BOSTON — This afternoon, thinkers discuss innovations and ideas worth acting on at the WGBH studios. The conference will be live-streamed by Thomson Reuters starting at 1:00 p.m.
On-site registration is closed but we encourage you to follow along on your computer (requires free sign-up).
Technology writer David Pogue hosts with speakers:
By WGBH News | Thursday, October 20, 2011
Oct. 20, 2011
Children today pick up using tablets and touch-screen devices as if they were born to it. (michaelaion/Flickr)
Tim Monroe is head of school at the Sage School for gifted children in Foxborough, Mass. Like many other educators, he is faced with integrating the new technology into the classroom. He talked with WGBH Radio's Bob Seay about that challenge and gave some advice for parents.
At Sage, every second grader has been given an iPad to use for part of the day, Monroe said: “What we’re trying to do this year is figure out [if] mobile devices enhance learning in the school setting. And so far the results are pretty good.”
He thought it was key that parents supervise their children’s screen time and not use these devices as digital “babysitters.”
Dr. Michael Rich, who directs the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston, agreed in an October 20 conversation with Jared Bowen, guest host of “The Emily Rooney Show."
When considering the effects of mobile devices on children, Rich said, “The first thing is to think about what the child is doing on it and for how long. If it is simply to distract them so you can get dinner on the table or take a shower, that’s probably not the right choice to make. … There are alternative activities that kids can do that will keep them just as happy, like giving them a bunch of pots and pans and a wooden spoon while you’re making dinner.”
When a child is allowed to use an iPhone or iPad as a distraction, “it teaches them that this is the default position for downtime,” Rich said.
Hear the complete conversation on "The Emily Rooney Show."
By American Experience | Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011