Wednesday, April 16, 2008

You Can Take It With You

Years and years ago, when Massachusetts voters were considering a soda can and bottle refund law called The Bottle Bill, there was substantial opposition from an "astro-turf" lobbying group that produced a series of commercials threatening the most awful consequences if the law were enacted.

On television, we were presented with scenes of a frail elderly woman precariously making her way down a narrow steep rickety staircase with a wheeled shopping cart loaded to overflowing with returnable soda cans and bottles, headed for a certain crash, no doubt followed by death or at least a hip replacement.

On radio, we heard dire threats that massive hoards of unwashed soda cans festering in supermarket storage rooms would breed new species of venomous, plague-carrying roaches.

Finally, a clever political activist/advertising copywriter fought back with a brilliant radio ad mocking the absurdity of these panic-mongering appeals.

"If the Bottle Bill passes, old ladies will fall down stairs! If the Bottle Bill passes, old ladies will fall UP stairs! Swarms of rats and roaches will infest grocery stores! The Black Plague!"

as he built to a hysterical climax,

"The White Plague! The Greeeeen Plaaaague!! Earthquakes!!! Floods!!! Tidal Waves!!!! GODZILLA!!!!"

he shrieked before, presumably, collapsing in exhaustion and terror.

It was brilliant, perfectly timed and perfectly pitched to puncture the nonsensical claims of the anti-Bottle Bill lobby. (Just how did that old lady get all those bottles up those narrow rickety stairs in the first place?) I admired the spot at the time, and had the privilege of meeting its creator a few months later. (My apologies to him, as I no longer remember his name, and can't find the old tape cassette holding my copy of the spot.) I've never forgotten how one really good ad can hit its bulls-eye.

Right now there's a new spot promoting "portable" health care, i.e. coverage not tied to your crappy job. It's playing at YouTube of course, and it might be the Godzilla spot for this campaign. It's pitch-perfect, funny, memorable, and makes a clear simple point. It's promoting Senator Ron Wyden's Healthy Americans Act, and it could be a winner.

The Bottle Bill? It passed, by a good margin. And when news organizations went to call or interview the opponents, they found... an empty office and an unanswered phone with no forwarding information. Not a concerned citizen in sight, just the leavings of an industry political front group. It's been more than 20 years now, and still no attacks by Godzilla.


Post a Comment

<< Home