January 09, 2004 | Graham

Don’t try this in Australia

This direct email (Word Doc 80 kb) from the Clark 04 Campaign came across my email intray today. It’s Madonna “rooting” (caution, US English language usage here) for General Wesley Clark, who is one of the front-runners in the Democratic Primaries.
This is not a gambit I’d recommend here in Australia, or at least not the way it is executed in this instance, and I’m unsure how well it would really work in the US. In principle, using the Internet to send out material promoting your candidate is a good idea, but just as with any other communication, if it isn’t properly designed and targetted, it’s a waste of time. On the ‘net it’s not as much a waste of money as it is when you send a direct mail piece, but it’s a waste of valuable personal capital.
Madonna’s message has a design problem. Many email systems, even in large companies and the government sector, cannot cope with html, and all these photos chew up bandwidth, which is a problem for those who use dial-up modems (i.e. 95% or so of your target market).
Then there are the message problems. For starters, what demographic is Clark targetting? With an endorsement from Madonna you could presumably say good-bye to any family values campaigning. Then there is the cognitive dissonance involved in “The Material Girl” saying “They [our current government] suffer from the ‘what’s in it for me?’ syndrome.” So Madonna’s renounced selfish living?
And what exactly does she mean when she says “I want my children to grow up with the same opportunities that I had”? Is Wes Clark guaranteeing every US adolescent the right to sleazy photo shoots and bedding Warren Beatty? No, apparently the opportunities are “to know and understand what’s going on in the world and to travel that world safely and with pride.” If these are core campaign messages, I think Clark could be in trouble – I can’t think that too many focus group participants spontaneously mention them as key issues in determining their vote. But then I should have known that when I saw the slogan in the top left corner “New American Patriotism”. Sounds a bit like “New Coke”. (And I’ll tell you a funny story about that one day).
The piece could also do with a decent editor. The language is vaguely antique. When was the last time you heard someone say “is it not”? It also uses the wrong word at least once. “Our greatest risk is a lack of leadership, a lack of honesty and a complete lack of consciousness.” “Consciousness”? Ronald Reagan might have Alzheimers but he’s no longer in the White House, or are they inferring that George W is back on the turps? Surely they meant “conscience”.
The final reason it wouldn’t work in Australia is encapsulated in this sentence: “Not only as a ‘celebrity’, but as an American citizen and as a mother.” Celebrity endorsements don’t work here. One of the reasons the Republican Movement lost the referendum campaign was because they ran a celebrity campaign. And they will work even worse if the celebrities are so under-confident that they feel the need not only to point out that they are celebrities, but that they might have some characteristics (US citizen and mom in this case) which actually qualify them to comment.
If you think Clark should be the Democrat nominee, send him some money. He obviously doesn’t have enough to hire good campaign advice.

Posted by Graham at 4:55 pm | Comments Off on Don’t try this in Australia |
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