October 28, 2010
America’s midterm elections are on Tuesday, but they”ve already voted for their favorite news network, and it sure as hell ain”t the Microsoft/National Broadcasting Company. Have you seen their latest advertising campaign? How could you not? It’s the biggest campaign in the network’s history. They”re going with the remarkably bland catchphrase “Lean Forward,” which conjures up images of subway commuters going to work on a Monday morning (yawn), though in this case it’s more like a suicidal geriatric on the edge of a cliff.
Recent prime-time ratings show Fox with about 2.5 million viewers as MSNBC struggles for a third of that total. Fox couldn”t resist kicking their little brother in the nuts with a rival campaign entitled “Move Forward” and the tagline, “We don”t lean up against a wall. We break it down.” Awesome.
To watch the ads side-by-side is to see what was once two Americas but is now a big fat America and some anorexic in the corner shaking her tiny fist. The “Lean Forward” ad looks like a YouTube montage of home movies and sounds like an 80-year-old Mexican who just got out of bed. The message seems to be: “We don”t hate minorities.” Fox nods a polite “Thanks” and takes off with a blistering ad that shows reporters in the center of tear-gas clouds screaming their heads off while Hummers race through gigantic explosions in the background. Where MSNBC has kids waterskiing on a Sunday afternoon, Fox has the Coast Guard ripping through the water at 60 mph. This is how Fox pushed MSNBC out of the number-one spot. They said, “Move.”
It reminds me of these dueling giant poster ads I saw in Berlin a few years ago. You”d get off the train in the city center, walk up the stairs, and be met with a 200-foot-high Carlsberg beer bottle and the slogan, “Probably the best lager in the world.” A few days later Heineken covered an adjacent building with an equally tall poster saying, “The best lager in the world.”