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From “Bear In The Woods”

Sunday, February 22, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The latest from my anonymous ad exec. He can be reached via bearinthewoods84@gmail.com:

I want to apologize for not writing for a couple of weeks. The economy has most businesses scrambling, and their advertising agencies scrambling even faster — so my “day job” has been demanding a lot of me lately. I received some excellent comments and encouragement via email after the last post, and it’s heartening to hear other conservative voices who do, in fact, have a clue about social and new media and how it affects the perception of the Republican brand.
A couple of things that caught my eye recently made me want to write something to you about some key fundamentals. It’s easy to get tied up in the intricacies of social media — because there are lots and lots of little nooks and crannies from which you can start conversations, build relationships, listen, and, to a certain extent, push messaging. But as you can tell from my previous notes, I’m positive that none of the nooks and crannies are effective until one holds a firm grasp on the fundamentals of marketing and pop culture communications. And historically, I don’t think the GOP and other Conservative organizations have done a very good job of grasping. In traditional media, it’s a problem. On the web, though, with the accelerated pace and shorter timelines, it’s a much bigger problem.[# More #]
The two key fundamentals I want to underscore here are: Reaction, and Anticipation. In the world of emerging media, which now translates to, simply, the World, understanding the nature of both has become even more critical for success.
First: Reaction. All politicians know something about reaction. The other guy says something, and you have to say something to counter it. If only it were that simple. In marketing, reaction takes on a broader definition. Because there are more things to react to than simply your opponent’s position on an issue. And reactions are not, by definition, opposition. There are, of course, the marketing efforts of your competitors — but there are also shifts in the marketplace brought on by any number of things beyond your control or even influence — a hit movie, a fad, or frequently in today’s market, the introduction of some new piece of technology that changes the way people connect, communicate, and seek entertainment. Your reaction to those things (or your inaction in the face of those things) can brand you a winner or a loser very quickly, and can mean the difference between an opportunity found and capitalized, or an opportunity lost. Note here that inaction is, in fact a reaction. Risk-averse advertising clients (which, in the industry, are usually called “conservative” clients, the “conservative” part having nothing to do with political views) are very careful and methodical about their reactions. Whether it’s a competitive claim or a shift in the marketplace, risk-averse clients hold fast to the tried and true while carefully and thoughtfully exploring every possible avenue for reaction. Because this process takes a very long time, many, many opportunities are lost. That was an acceptable outcome before the advent of lightning-fast new media. Now, it’s less so. Opportunities come and go quickly. Slow reaction times not only hinder your chances of capitalization, they can actually hurt you later by branding you out of touch, should you decide at some point in the future to respond to something that has become old hat. The short story: Reaction to shifts in the marketplace must now be swift — counted in minutes and hours, rather than days, weeks or months. If you want to win the race, go faster.
What brought Reaction Time to my attention relative to the GOP? Tea Parties. This is a grassroots movement in its infancy. It started via traditional media, has grown through social media, and like all infant grassroots movements, has a tiny chance of growth and survival coupled with an enormous potential for success and impact, should it, in fact, survive and grow. In order for any movement to grow, though, it needs fuel. An opportunity has been placed in the lap of the GOP. A big opportunity, in my view, especially in light of the abysmal history the party has with grassroots movements of any kind. What’s the reaction to this potentially fortuitous shift in the market? I haven’t really seen one yet. And as I said, inaction is, in fact, reaction.
The second fundamental to understand in today’s communication landscape is: Anticipation. Because Reaction must now be so swift, a marketer cannot wait for times to change to begin learning all about just how, exactly, they’ve changed. Think about professional football. A top receiver doesn’t leave the line knowing for sure the ball will come to him. That’s just one of several options. Nor does he have to wait and watch the trajectory of the ball from the moment of its release. The offensive coordinator has anticipated the defense. The quarterback reacts to unforeseen developments. If the planets align to create a predicted opportunity, and the receiver uses his skill and knowledge to run the route correctly, the ball will be there. That’s anticipation. In a marketing sense, anticipation requires a sensitive finger on the pulse of the market, an eye on developing trends, a thorough knowledge of what has come before, and a willingness to plan contingencies for scenarios A through Z. It really boils down to an ability, not only to predict things you’ll have to react to, but to predict how the market will react to what you do. Getting ahead in this environment requires extreme anticipation. Which is why it’s hard to watch when we Conservatives miss even the easy ones.
I’m referring specifically to the recent stimulus spot aired by the American Issues Project. It is seriously lacking production value, and has other creative shortcomings — but that’s not the real problem. It’s a hard-hitting message, and, actually, uses a nice tactic to illustrate the size of the stimulus bill: (Suppose you spend $1M a day, every day, for 2000 years?) So what’s the problem? Here’s the Politico headline: VIDEO: Group counters stimulus with Jesus in TV ad.
Now, if you’re doing a good job anticipating, then you’re anticipating how the competition will react to what you do. And in the case of conservative political messaging, I think we can agree that the media could justifiably be considered the competition. The ad makes a great point. But it specifically uses, in both voice-over and image on screen, the date of the birth of Christ to illustrate its point . But the birth of Christ has nothing whatsoever to do with the point, save its proximity in history to the beginning of a timeline calculated by the creators of the spot to make math work. By bringing Christ into the creative, even, no — especially — in an ancillary way, as this spot does, only gives the competition a reason to discount the point the ad is trying to make. “There go those Bible-banging conservatives, bringing God into an economic discussion — no reason to even listen.” Point shifted, and discounted. The spot makes its way around conservative circles, but never breaks out. Preaching to the choir. And there was no reason for it to happen.
In addition to being a conservative, I am a Christian. I fervently believe Christian values have a place in government, community, and public discourse. I believe Christian values have a place in political discourse, too, when that discourse is about subject matter on which Christian values have a relevant point to make. That happens frequently. Just, not this time — at least, not the way it was used. As a good communicator, I see the folly in this particular spot’s use of Jesus in its timeline, because it gives the opposition a way to shift the attention away from the issue at hand. The date of Jesus’ birth is not relevant, in any way, to the mess that is the stimulus package, although I believe the Lord does have an opinion on some of the bill’s contents. Creatively speaking, the metaphor could have been constructed differently, with equally impressive effects. Make it $2M per day, and a thousand years. Make it a stack of $1M bills from here to the moon. There was no need to give the other side the ammo to switch the subject of the conversation. But the Issues Project did, because they failed to anticipate. That was slow-pitch. We swung and missed.


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Colorado Calling

Saturday, February 21, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Thanks to those of you who sent best wishes. After a couple of hours in the chair yesterday, whatever roots there were left in my molar are now gone. The doc chose an IV drip full of unusual elixers, so I am still a little woozy and will spend the day snoozing I think, and reading Thomas Barnett’s Great Powers (see below) and Thomas Rick’s The Gamble. Thanks to Carol Platt Liebau for filling in so ably yesterday. (Carol’s blogging is always available at Townhall.com’s group blog.) Not sure who won Amaze.fm song of the week, but I’ll catch up on Monday.

After last week’s disastrous California budget vote, this was to be expected.

Memo to Colorado: The studio requires a build-out of about 2,000 feet and I am open on the university affiliation.

Campbell on the Car Companies, Barnett on Globalization, and Kristol on the GOP

Thursday, February 19, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Two interviews yesterday and two today deserve your attention.

First, Representative John Campbell spent a quarter century in the car business before selling his many dealerships and going first to the California legislature and then to the Congress. Campbell’s a member of the House’s Financial Services Committee and the Joint Economic Committee, and he brings a CPA’s skepticism to various spending proposals.

I spent most of an hour yesterday discussing the GM/Chrysler situation with Campbell, and the transcript of that interview is here. As Lawrence Summers goes about fashioning a recommendation for the president on the proposed additional assistance to the car companies, he ought to spend a lot of time with Campbell. There isn’t anyone else on the Hill with as much real world experience with the business as Campbell, or anyone with as much affection for it, but it is an affection rooted in realism about the radical change sweeping the industry here and abroad.

While Democrats and the MSM ought to be paying close attention to Campbell when it comes to the car companies, the GOP ought to study Bill Kristol’s cautions concerning their next steps. Republicans were absolutely correct to oppose the stimulus-that-wasn’t-a-stimulus, but if the president brings forward balanced and useful legislation on the financial system and home mortgages, they ought to get behind it, not obstruct it. The key to bipartisanship is non-partisanship in the legislation. If the president’s proposals are genuinely aimed at continuing the stabilization of the banking system and at securing the return of a healthy housing market, the GOP ought to join in crafting and passing the measures. I will have real estate developer Peter Gooding on today’s program to discuss the residential and commercial real estate markets today. On the one hand, one of Gooding’s projects, LVRanchEstates.com, is thriving after he aggressively adjusted its prices to reflect the downturn in real estate. But his workout business which specializes in the commercial sector is booming because there are so many distressed commercial assets on the books of banks. A weak real estate sector could go either direction in a hurry, and the GOP ought to be encouraging the president to do smart things in a hurry to make sure the direction is recovery.

Finally, everyone ought to tune into the third hour today for my third conversation with Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett about his new book Great Powers.

Great Powers: America and the World After Bush

Today we are going to cover chapter four on the economics of globalization, which is an optimistic embrace of the world’s new economic order. The triumph of “the American system” doesn’t make the pain of a recession any less stinging or the shock of unemployment any less profound, but it should confirm what the Fed noted yesterday in its longer term economic forecast –the world, including the U.S., is poised for enormous economic growth accompanied by the gradual extension of freedom in the wake of rising prosperity.

If the United States leads, that is. A very big if.

The transcript of today’s conversation with Barnett will be posted here later. The podcast will be here, as are yesterday’s podcasts of the conversations with Campbell and Kristol.

The first interview with Dr. Barnett on Great Powers is here. The podcast is here.

The second interview with him is here, and the podcast is here.

Carol Platt Liebau will fill in for me tomorrow while I part company with a root canal, and blogging will resume when the anesthetic wears off.

“Is There Anything God Can’t Forgive?”

Wednesday, February 18, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Rick Warren’s got a new magazine, “Purpose Driven Connection,” and judging by the first article from it which I have read –“Is There Anything God Can’t Forgive?”– it is going to be hugely successful.

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