Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You ... Four Copywriters Lend a Hand, Pen Slogans to Help Political Parties out of Midterm Doldrums

By Melillo, Wendy | ADWEEK, October 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You ... Four Copywriters Lend a Hand, Pen Slogans to Help Political Parties out of Midterm Doldrums


Melillo, Wendy, ADWEEK


The road to find the right political slogan for this year's midterm elections has been riddled with potholes. Before Democrats settled on the current "New Direction for America" as their tag, they took aim at the GOP with "Culture of Corruption," "Culture of Cronyism," "Do-Nothing Congress" and "Rubber-Stamp Congress," as well as the more-positive "Together, We Can Do Better," "Together, America Can Do Better" and "Six for '06." As The Washington Post's Dana Milbank acidly commented, "The Democrats have had more 'New Directions' recently than MapQuest." Across the aisle, the Republicans haven't really adopted a formal slogan, instead leading the electorate to believe that voting Democratic is the equivalent of driving off a cliff. Adweek asked copywriters Jamie Barrett, Mark Fenske, Jeff Kling and John Schofield to provide the parties with some direction. The resulting slogans--some serious, some just plain hilarious--will get tongues wagging, and who knows, maybe they'll spark an idea at the parties' headquarters.

So far, everything I see from the Democratic Party tells me they're afraid to be who they are. Crouched in Howard Dean's basement in Vermont, they're spending their energy trying to keep people from using the word "liberal" about them, only venturing outside now and then to throw rocks at Republicans with glass houses.

That's keeping your light hid under a bushel. That's what you do when you're hoping to win something by default--like a race car driver who hangs back, hoping to zoom past if the leaders get in an accident.

I say stop apologizing for sounding liberal and be as liberal as it is possible to be.

I say stand up for the hard nugget of truth that has been the heart of the Democratic Party since Roosevelt:

'Give the Money Away.'

Why pussyfoot around with focus groups and telephone polls full of subtleties about message retention in the Midwest?

Get a big idea, not a new slogan. Go on Meet the Press--it doesn't matter who does this--and say, "We're the richest nation on Earth. It's time to start giving the money away. We propose to divvy up the resources of the United States of America to the people of the world."

Tim Russert's eyes will pop out.

It'll be beautiful.

You won't have to spend a dime on advertising.

Every newscast and newspaper on Earth will carry the Democratic message as their lead.

Billions of dollars worth of advertising for free.

It's big, it's green, it's interactive, inclusive, nontraditional.

I know, it's a bit off-target; there's not a large market for socialism.

There's concern the idea may not test well.

It goes against the brief.

And it doesn't make any money for the agency.

But, it's got the voice figured out.

I propose the new Republican Party slogan accept responsibility--as the party in power--for a fair share of those things in the world that are not "going well." Thus:

'Heaven cannot be built on Earth. We promise to stop trying.'

It's deliverable.

Newsworthy.

And opens up a dialogue with elements of the population who would never otherwise consider the party's positions.

That the slogan is at odds with the innermost beliefs of the party's most devoted members is, I feel, an important feature of the work.

MARK FENSKE

WIEDEN + KENNEDY

'Believe Again.'

The executive branch of our government seems to have a credibility problem. Whether it's Iraq or Katrina, a straight answer is hard to come by. This administration makes Nixon look like the patron saint of the polygraph. The use of a question or statement that raises the credibility issue without beating consumers over the head in a partisan fashion seems wise. In matters where belief conflicts with fact, you have to let consumers complete the loop--let them come to your conclusion for you. …

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