What Al Gore Didn't Say

Nobel Prize Winner Chooses to Play Current TV Pitchman at ANA Confab

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PHOENIX ( -- In his first major address since winning the Nobel peace prize, Al Gore was more salesman than statesman.

The climate-change champion, kicking off proceedings on the second day of the Association of National Advertisers conference here, spoke nary a word on matters environmental or political. He didn't even touch on his new status as Nobel laureate, instead sticking religiously to evangelizing his Current TV network. (See video excerpts.)
Al Gore speaks at the ANA annual meeting.
Al Gore speaks at the ANA annual meeting. Credit: Rohanna Mertens

Hitting those CGC notes
Current is an interesting business, and, as a consumer-generated content network, plays into a hot, or at least lukewarm, topic for the audience of marketers assembled here in Phoenix. What's more, Current's VCAMs --viewer-created ad messages (marketers pay $1,000 to any ad they like enough to screen) -- that Mr. Gore screened were better and better received than a lot of the professional fare displayed by other speakers. But none of that altered the audience's disappointment that Mr. Gore played pitchman.

"If that had been another media owner up there shilling, we'd have been throwing rotten tomatoes," commented one attendee after the session, a sentiment that was echoed by many others.

'Just plain strange'
Of course any conference organizer could empathize with the ANA's position: The idea is to put bums on seats and generate excitement and having Mr. Gore speak was bound to do that. But attendees wondered whether the ANA had agreed to a deal with either Current TV or Mr. Gore's own PR team whereby no word would be spoken about anything but the network, and whether the terms were just a bit too stringent. "To not even mention the Nobel prize the day after it was announced was just plain strange," said one attendee.

At the end of Mr. Gore's address ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice played his customary role of pitching a few extra questions to the speakers, but even then Mr. Gore was treated like a media owner, not a former presidential nominee or leading green advocate.

The ANA, through a spokeswoman, said only: "He was here to talk about consumer-generated media, which is just what he did." And, in part, that was true. Certainly he hit on some popular and important themes such as the now oft-repeated mantra to marketers that they have to give up an element of control, while noting, however, that nothing that runs on Current that the marketers haven't vetted.

Losing to Apple
Perhaps the disappointment was so palpable since the ANA gathering is a clearly a sympathetic audience. Mr. Gore was just five votes short of winning Ad Age's inaugural CMO Choice Award chosen by attendees at the opening night dinner. The honor ended up going to Apple, but the tightness of the race showed just how far Mr. Gore has gone in recuperating his brand from the also-ran image of the 2000 presidential election, which of course he lost by a hair -- something that's in danger of becoming a trend.
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