What We Can Glean From Karl Rove’s Real Bad Day

Now that we’re on the far side of the election, horribly misleading crapvertising like this has vanished from our public airwaves (although it is still plentiful online):

Bloomberg reports that the maker of the ad above is under fire from conservative investors who spent more than $300 million on TV ads that failed to deliver results.

“Right now there is stunned disbelief that Republicans fared so poorly after all the money they invested,” said Brent Bozell, president of For America, an Alexandria-based nonprofit that advocates for Christian values in politics. “If I had 1/100th of Karl Rove’s money, I would have been more productive than he was.”

Huffington Post reports that “Rove and American Crossroads have aggressively been deflecting the blame. Rove has blamed the timing of Hurricane Sandy, accused President Barack Obama of suppressing the vote and argued that the former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not respond quickly enough to the Obama campaign’s attacks. On Friday, American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio identified another culprit: the Senate candidates and a weak GOP recruitment process.”

So what’s the deal? Is Rove right? Did he fail for reasons not his own? Or were his tactics and his messaging simply rejected outright?

Again, there is such a clear parallel to consumer marketing here. When an ad campaign fails to boost sales is it because shoppers fail to believe in the claims made? That’s one factor. To be successful, there can be no dissonance between brand messaging and how a company, or candidate, operates in practical terms.

We keep coming back again and again to the pressing need to reveal, not conceal, a brand’s core strengths and values. That’s the best practice in a media environment that favors transparency and instantaneous global reach.

Rove’s game is from another time. Twelve and 8 years may seem like just a moment ago, but in terms of the digital dynamic and its impact on communications as a whole, and thus politics, it was eons ago.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.