Friday, April 10, 2009

Why the National Organization for Marriage ad failed

It was a million dollar ad complete with technical effects. It featured people telling seemingly compelling stories. It presented the issue in a clear and concise manner.

It wasn’t supposed to fail.

But it did, big time.

How did it happen?

When it’s all said and done, the National Organization for Marriage’s commercial will be remembered as a huge debacle. Years from now, it will probably be looked at in the same vein of an Ed Wood movie- at college dorm parties complete with drinking games.

But for a while, I couldn’t figure out just why this ad resonated the way it did (and certainly not the way that the NOM had hoped).

Then the reason came to me.

The ad came across as a low budget Youtube version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

NOM head Maggie Gallagher consistently makes the same evasive argument in almost every talk show appearance - “if you believe in traditional marriage, then you are unfairly labeled a bigot.”

She does everything but hint about re-education camps for those who don’t agree with same sex marriage. Maybe she should have consulted with Rep. Michele Bachman and Janet Porter.

While this argument can be effective in the hit/miss world of talk shows and soundbites, it becomes less effective when people have time to assess it.

It’s nothing more than a scare tactic, really. And when given time, people tend to recognize scare tactics.

Especially when they are ensconced in a background of phony dark clouds and artificial thunder and lightning with actors talking about “the enemy” that threatens America.

It’s just too intense to be taken seriously.

Lgbts and our allies laughed with good reason at the silliness of the ad. But I venture to say that some people who viewed the ad came away feeling pretty stupid about opposing same-sex marriage.

I also think that some did not come away from viewing the ad with the notion of “My God, we have to stop this from happening.”

Instead there was a lot of “Who the hell are these crazy people who put out this dumb ad?”

NOM is facing a brave new world where people are slowly but surely beginning to realize that gay marriage is not so threatening. While we have a long way to go, the victories in Vermont and Iowa prove that gay marriage is no longer a consistently winning issue for the right.

They can no longer rely on dark clouds, talk of secret empires, and inscrutable enemies to get their point across.

But when that’s all you have, what can you do?


PersonalFailure said...

I bet a lot of people watched that ad and were left thinking "wtf?!"

John said...

You know, I find it interesting that absolutely NO ONE has mentioned that in the ad they actually say "I am afraid". And this is from the very people who say they aren't homophobic. Why has no one pointed that out?

Emily K said...

But I have a question. Why did this ad fail, but the ads used to push Prop. 8 succeed? Does anyone know? Do you have any ideas?

BlackTsunami said...

I feel the ad failed because of a number of reasons.
While it may not have aired as of yet, there seems to be a huge backlash to it already.

On youtube, it has rated very poorly. Also, NOM seem to be play defense on a number of fronts, most specifically getting youtube to yank the audition videos.

From what I've seen on the blogs, there have been no positive responses. Conservative religious blogs are slow to defend the ad - and that says a lot because we all know that you only get one chance to make a first impression and its all about being the first to define the argument.

In the face of our victories in Iowa and Vermont, the ad comes across as desperate and too intense.

Also, the fact that NOM inferred anecdotes and used actors rather than actual folks involved in said anecdotes hurt them tremendously.
Questions have come up asking why couldn't they have gotten the actual people. Did these incidents really take place?

That made it easier for us to refute the anecdotes. There was no one the audience could bond with as an actual person hurt by same sex marriage.

One of the ads in Proposition 8 did feature David Parker, the parent in the middle of the Massachusetts controversy. Also, the Proposition 8 ads were more sophisticated and very low key in comparison to the NOM ad. The NOM ad was way too over the top.