Rob Sobhani – A friendly critique of one of his TV commercials.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hi. Rob Sobhani, Independent candidate for US Senator from Maryland, has started running television commercials. This is good news for a couple of reasons. For one thing, he’s a great candidate, a clear and superior alternative to both the incumbent, Democrat Ben Cardin, and the Republican challenger, Dan Bongino. These commercials will help give him the visibility, the name recognition among prospective voters that he needs. The other reason is that the ads indicate that he’s well funded, possibly with the financial strength to mount a credible challenge to Senator Cardin who has tons of money from ordinary supporters, of course, but also from special interests – not counting Democrat Party money that he’ll be getting later. To his profound credit, Rob Sobhani isn’t taking special interest money, not that any has been offered to him yet, but it will be if he shows well in the polls.

Needless to say, television advertising is expensive. Whatever your resources, every ad you run has to be well crafted to have the maximum beneficial impact. To that end, it occurred to me, what the heck, let’s take a look at one of Rob Sobhani’s commercials to see if there’s any basis for constructive criticism. Remember, I don’t think Ben Cardin has done anything to deserve re-election and Rob Sobhani is an excellent alternative for like-minded voters, so this is a friendly exercise. “Go Rob!” That said, let’s see if you agree with my comments and suggestions.

Here’s the text of one of Rob Sobhani’s 30 second spots. His words are in bold blue print, with my comments interspersed among them. You can click here to see the actual commercial. Here we go.

Our politics is broken. (I get the point, but don’t like the syntax. It’s a about style, so we’ll leave this line alone.)

How do we fix our economy, create jobs and restore our future? (This is a question the candidate should be answering, not raising. And “restore the future” is a meaningless concept.)

Career politicians, Democrats and Republicans, just blame each other and cater to special interests. (Good observation that has bearing on his being an Independent.)

The system’s corrupt. (Too extreme, and “system” is too vague a concept.) It’s failing us. We need to shake things up. (To be honest, I’m not a big fan of these short-sentence platitudes that lack specific meaning for the voter. I think they’re a waste of airtime.)

I’m Rob Sobhani, Independent for US Senate from Maryland. (Given his lack of name recognition, I think he should have led with this introduction, rather than waiting until 17 seconds into the ad. Whether this delay was a matter of style or to give the viewer a chance to get into the commercial, either way it wasn’t a good idea.)

I approve this message because you and I know the truth. (What truth is that? The next sentence? He should just get to the point.)

Our country’s in trouble and we’re running out of time. (True, but too vague, a bit too dramatic and doesn’t suggest any course of action. Voters don’t need to be scared. They need to be reassured and encouraged. And he’s ending the commercial on a downer.)

One visual observation. You’ll have to watch the ad to confirm this. It appears to me that he’s looking at a teleprompter or cue cards that are slightly to the left, to his left of the camera. Most people watching wouldn’t notice this, not consciously. But, if I’m right, he’s not looking the viewer directly in the eye. Even if just on a subconscious level, it’s something that could diminish perceived sincerity. He needs to move the teleprompter to immediately above the lens.

I give Rob’s ad a “B,” and think he can do better. …“Hey, buster. Talk is cheap!” I heard that, and you’re right. My father taught me to never, ever criticize something without offering a suggestion that would be an improvement. He was right. Here’s the 30 second spot I would have written to introduce Rob Sobhani to voters. As before, the actual text of the commercial is in bold blue type. Everything else is my commentary. It’s a little tight, time-wise, and I’ve omitted the “I approved this ad.” tagline because it’s Rob Sobhani talking and I’m not sure it’s necessary if that’s the case. Here goes.

(I want Rob’s head to be a bit larger than it was in his spot, but not so much so as to be scary, with him looking straight into the lens.)

Hi. (Friendly.) I’m Rob Sobhani, candidate to represent Maryland in the US Senate. (Someone who doesn’t have name recognition needs to say his name right up front. Remember also that many people “watching” TV are just listening, not reading the screen.)

It’s a three-person race. (Just saying this tends to put him on equal footing with the other two, more prominent candidates.)

The incumbent is a Democrat who’s done nothing to grow the Maryland economy. (He needs to criticize the incumbent, but not by name. One of two things will be true. Either the Cardin campaign will respond which gives Rob Sobhani free exposure or, more likely, they’ll ignore the comment, thinking they can take the hit and that failure to respond lends credibility to Rob’s statement.)

The Republican lacks the experience to solve our problems. (Same for the Republican candidate as my comment above.)

They’re both candidates of the political parties that have pushed public approval for Congress to record lows. (This is the lead-in that agues why voters should consider an Independent.)

(To be said with determination and pride…)
I’m an Independent. I don’t owe either political party anything, and I don’t take money from special interests. (This point about special interest campaign financing should be a major Sobhani campaign theme.)

You, your family, your business. (Make it personal.) Those are the only special interests I’ll represent. …And I know how to put people back to work. (Never do an ad without mentioning the economy. Hands down, it’s the most important issue of the campaign. I recommend ending every ad he runs with that tag line, “And I know how to put people back to work.” I’d say it because it’s true and to further differentiate himself from the incumbent and his Republican opponent.)

So, readers, what do you think? Is my ad better? A solid “A++”? More effective? Nicely typed?! Ridiculous? Is it good that I haven’t quit my day job? (Oh, poop. This is my day job.) Please use the comments facility to let me know and offer your own suggestions. Thanks!

-Next Contestant

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