Politics Certainly Ain't What it Used to be

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If you look around the rest of this issue of Advertising Age, you'll notice a bit of news about political advertising. It's a record-breaking year in both dollars spent and, supposedly, mud slung. And while our editorial board takes a certain "Well, that's the way life is" approach, here at Adages we celebrate nasty political ads for no other reason than they're fun to watch and so much easier to believe. In one of our roles here, we cobbled together some of this year's hottest ads over at AdAge.com/outofsite. Sure, if you're the sort who wants to see Michael Steele of Maryland petting a puppy or Eliot Spitzer getting all "Morning in America," you can find those. But among our favorites are: New Jersey's Tom Kean Jr. accusing opponent Bob Menendez of being in bed with the Mafia as well as lying to Jews; Ohio's Steve Shabot insinuating that John Cranley wants to electrocute children; Madeleine Albright painting Osama's cave; and an ad in Massachusetts graphically showing the body part in which the Commonwealth's politicians store their heads.

Of course, off the screen and out in the real world, we can't forget all the mini-scandals and PR disasters, chief among them this year Republican Mark Foley and Democrat John Kerry. Sadly for the Democrats, Foley's ordeal happened a full month ago and Kerry? Well, the guy's got impeccable timing to go along with his hair.

Still, we sort of long for the old days. Back then, politicians couldn't go on talk radio or Fox News and spin and yell and lie and insult one another. No, they spun, yelled and lied and insulted one another personally and in print. And if they felt an insult went over the line, they didn't offer a statement about how disappointed they were. They didn't unveil an ad or call their PR person. No, they challenged one another to duels involving real guns with real bullets.

Or take our favorite case: South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks. Mr. Brooks, who felt a family member had been insulted by Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner, took to the floor of the U.S. Senate and beat Sumner with a cane until the stick broke.

Granted, Sumner knew his remarks would likely result in a challenge to a duel and he was right on about the issue at hand. But you almost have to admire a man willing to cross party lines, congressional houses and the bounds of decency and common sense to make a political point.

Sting (and his lute) still in the news, now attracting royal attention

Can someone please explain to us the fascination with Sting (and his lute)? Yes, we wrote about Sting (and his lute) a few weeks ago (AA, Oct. 16), but only because we felt that our readers deserved such hard-hitting news coverage. Then we see him on "Studio 60 on Sunset Strip." And now a source tells us that the Queen of England herownself is stalking Sting (and his lute). Jolie DeFeis, president of boutique agency Sugartown Creative, recently received an e-mail requesting Sting's contact info (we presume he and the lute share an address). Sugartown works with Sting and wife Trudie Styler on the Il Palagio line of organic foods. We're not sure if the lute is involved with the venture, but someone at the Royal Festival Hall in London figured DeFeis would be a good place to start. Apparently the program director at the Royal Festival Hall, at the behest of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, was looking to book Sting (and his lute) for a performance.

And now a word about apes and elephants from our copy monkeys

If there's one thing we've learned here at Adages, it's to always keep the copy editors happy--or at least not overly angry. (Full disclosure: We were once on the copy desk and lost a full 20 IQ points upon leaving it.) That being the case, we'd like to voice a complaint from one of our copy monkeys, who points with rage to the current AXA Equitable campaign running on TV. You may have seen the spot, in which a gorilla lectures a boomer couple about their financial situation. He concludes with: "What do I know? I'm just the 800-pound gorilla in the room." Writes our copy monkey: "You ignore the elephant in the room! The elephant. Not the gorilla!" Adages, as you know, is a big fan of monkeys and apes. And we find nonflying elephants terribly boring. But copy monkey does have a point.

Send your sticks and stones to kwheaton@crain.com
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