ads without products

of course, terrorists don’t strike at 3 am

with 5 comments

Orlando Patterson in the NY Times:

Not so this Clinton ad. To be sure, it states that something is “happening in the world” — although it never says what this is — and that Mrs. Clinton is better able to handle such danger because of her experience with foreign leaders. But every ad-maker, like every social linguist, knows that words are often the least important aspect of a message and are easily muted by powerful images.

I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.

The ad could easily have removed its racist sub-message by including images of a black child, mother or father — or by stating that the danger was external terrorism. Instead, the child on whom the camera first focuses is blond. Two other sleeping children, presumably in another bed, are not blond, but they are dimly lighted, leaving them ambiguous. Still it is obvious that they are not black — both, in fact, seem vaguely Latino.

Finally, Hillary Clinton appears, wearing a business suit at 3 a.m., answering the phone. The message: our loved ones are in grave danger and only Mrs. Clinton can save them. An Obama presidency would be dangerous — and not just because of his lack of experience. In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr. Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within.

(You can see the ad in question here… It doesn’t seem to want to embed…)

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 11, 2008 at 11:13 am

Posted in ads, distraction

5 Responses

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  1. Hey, on a lighter note, Obama can fix your computer – and more! See

    Bill Vroom

    March 11, 2008 at 11:26 am

  2. This is exactly right. In addition to ripping off Mondale, and a million films. Sadly, 7 ni 10 whites just voted for her in Mississippit.


    March 12, 2008 at 3:41 am

  3. btw, hard to type in your comments
    box; the right-hand margin seems broken.


    March 12, 2008 at 3:43 am

  4. It’s strange – it did what you said at home, but now that I’m at the office it works again. Do others have this problem? If so, I’ll change the theme, as there’s no way to tinker with it in my wordpress hosted wordpress etc. Thanks for letting me know though matt!


    March 12, 2008 at 9:53 am

  5. working now.


    March 15, 2008 at 2:56 am

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