Nader airs a new parody

And our ad critics are torn: Best campaign spot so far or a tired retread?


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Alicia Montgomery
November 1, 2000 6:31pm (UTC)

Ralph Nader has run his campaign with a lightweight war chest, having raised only about $6 million. (Gore has raised $133 million; Bush, $187 million.) While the major-party candidates have crowded the airwaves with dozens of television spots, Nader has invested in just two.

His second effort has a tough act to follow. The first, a sendup of the MasterCard "Priceless" ad campaign, earned the candidate raves, a lawsuit and tons of free publicity. The latest Nader commercial uses a similar tactic, taking off on a popular ad, starring a lineup of woeful youths, run by Monster.com. But this time, according to Salon's political ad panel, the ad gets mixed results.

Ralph Nader, "Grow Up"

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Richard Blow is the former executive editor of George magazine and is working on a book about John F. Kennedy Jr.

I love this ad. Since it's a takeoff on the Monster.com spot, I suspect this means that the ad is targeted to tech-generation voters in California, Washington and Oregon, where Nader has his greatest support. Young voters who felt an affinity for the earlier spot might well feel the same emotional connection to this one, and a vote for Nader is clearly an emotional vote, not a practical one.

Filmed in black and white, the ad posits a stark choice between disillusionment and idealism. We all know that kids have spot-on bullshit detectors, and these youngsters, their faces giving away no hint of mischief, slyly suggest that Al Gore and George W. are equally full of shit. (Children can also get away with saying things that adults can't.) These kids remind us that our presidents should be talking about larger things than the importance of literacy or prescription drugs for seniors; they should inspire. Their words tap into Americans' latent idealism and humanity's biological compulsion to leave the world better for our children than it was for us. Not bad for a 30-second spot.

Now, would it get me to vote for Nader (who is almost an afterthought here)? Not if I weren't leaning toward him in the first place. But if I were, would it keep me from defecting out of a last-minute pragmatism? Yeah, it probably would. And that's the mark of a good ad; it knows what it's trying to do and, on those terms, it succeeds.

Scott Banda is a creative director at J. Walter Thompson in San Francisco.

Nader is blatantly stealing (for the second time -- the first time was MasterCard), and his promise is really no different from the other guys': "It'll be a better world with me in charge." Nader might have better taste in advertising, but if he is willing to steal from companies, who else could he steal from?

Steve Sandoz is a creative director with Wieden & Kennedy, the advertising agency responsible for Nike's ad campaign.

This Nader ad is by no means perfect. I mean, after all, it is a parody of a parody. (It spoofs the Monster.com ad that spoofed the Nike "Will you let me play?" ad.) But that little bit of nit-picking aside, this is arguably the best ad I've seen during the fall's deluge of political double talk. And the points it makes are completely valid. Are voters disenfranchised? Yes. Do many people consider Bush or Gore the lesser of two evils? Yes again. Are we in for four more years of politics as usual? It looks like it.

By offering up Nader as a candidate who actually understands how let down and disappointed people are by their electoral choices, he effectively positions himself as the one person with the integrity and will to actually make a difference.

Will it be enough to get him elected? Not by a long shot. Will it make many people wish that he could? Definitely. I only wish Nader had started running ads like this back in July. Then maybe this whole campaign could have operated on a higher, more relevant plane.

Mark Frisk is a senior producer at Ogilvy & Mather in New York.

Going satirical twice in a row is lame. The MasterCard takeoff was brilliant and well-done. The effect was enhanced because MasterCard is a huge corporation. The original ad took a straightforward approach, so the spoof was automatically funny. It would have been hard not to be funny. And I think funny is almost always good in advertising. Nader also got tons of free P.R. from MasterCard's lawsuit. That spot was a real win.

This thing, though, lampooning a spot for Monster.com -- one that I found genuinely entertaining and effective -- is another matter entirely. The original ad was funny. The implicit premise -- that the poor kids would grow up to be abused corporate lackeys, but Monster.com could help them better their job prospects -- was goofy enough to be charming and build positive value for Monster.com.

By spoofing a funny commercial, Nader has ended up with a decidedly unfunny spot. I guess it's a kind of double-negative effect. It's flat and meaningless, and I don't buy any of it. As if Ralph Nader is going to fix any of these problems! It's misleading, pie-in-the-sky crap. It's entirely negative against the major-party candidates and, at least for me, reinforces the fact that Nader has not put forth clearly his ideas for fixing the problems he sees.

It's one thing to rail against corporate power and quite another to actually venture some solid, reasonable, realistic proposals for curtailing it. Such a bold step might have actually resulted in an effective TV ad.


Alicia Montgomery

Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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