This week, I’ve posted a variety of ads; some use fear to incite emotion while others use children. The above commercial, also from the supporters of Prop 8, creates the feeling of impending doom and starts with:
There’s a storm gathering
The clouds are dark and the winds are strong
And I am afraid…
This ad uses a different technique in that it leverages multiple adult characters each with a different line of dialogue (the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen tells us that these adult characters are all actors, however, they are supposedly telling stories based on real incidents).
The skies throughout the first part of the commercial are dark as each person speaks of the impending storm that is brewing and how rights have been taken away when marriage equality laws are passed.
I am a Massachusetts parent helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is ok.
A California doctor and church group also share how they would supposedly be impacted if gay marriage were legal. The actors go on to say that same-sex marriage advocates are not content and they want to change the way Californians live and that people would have no choice.
The storm is coming.
A man appears with the text Damon Owens, National Organization for Marriage. As he begins to share that there is hope, the overcast skies open up and sun shines through. He shares how “a rainbow coalition of every creed and color coming together in love to protect marriage.” He concludes by putting a plug in for the organization’s website and then says “join us.”
I actually found the commercial to be a little creepy, almost cult-like with the last words Mr. Owens speaks. With that said, it is both memorable and effective as it paints a somber picture of how Californians may be impacted if gay marriage were legal.
Once again, however, the ad is easily debunked. The claim from the California doctor that she must choose between her faith and her job doesn’t make sense. Is she saying that she would have to choose whether or not a same-sex couple would be allowed to see each other in the hospital? Or is she saying that she would have to choose whether or not a same-sex couple raising a child should be allowed to see their daughter in the emergency room? Hmmm. If these are the choices this doctor is making, find me someone else, please! Who else does she hold a grudge against and how does that impact her other decisions?
As for the mother who can do nothing to stop her child from learning about same-sex couples, well I’m sorry to say, that fight is a lost battle. Have you turned on the television recently? Even childrens’ comics feature same-sex couples these days. The reality is, social norms are changing (have changed) and children in every state will be exposed to different definitions of love.
As for the church group that is punished for not following the law? Well, I would ask what benefits that church is receiving from their government? Tax laws in their favor? Other non-exempt benefits? I don’t fully understand why these organizations feel that they should benefit from the government partnerships, but then not be held to any standards of accountability. It always brings me back to the concept of church and state and I’ve got to ask if we’ve got the separation that our founders intended?
The ad was effective and has been viewed over a million times. In fact, it was so popular that Stephen Colbert created his own funny version of this ad (I’ll post it a little later today or tomorrow). While effective, there are clearly ways to counter this type of ad. The most effective is talking about it and pointing out some of the logical gaps mentioned above.
Here’s another one of those yes on Prop 8 commercials… This ad features a little girl who is confused asking what appear to be her two gay dads where babies come from and marriage.
When the daughter shares how her friend “Megan says you have to have a mommy and a daddy to have a baby,” the solution one of the “dads” has is spending less time with Megan. The other “dad” tries to explain that you only need a man and a woman to make a baby, but that they don’t have to be married.
There’s a lot of camera work in this ad; the camera focus shifts from one “dad” to the next and back to the little girl again. There’s uncomfortable pauses, shifting on the couch and when the little girl asks (only after looking down at the floor to clearly highlight her discomfort and confusion), “Then, what’s marriage for?” it’s clear that no one in the room has an answer.
The ad pauses and the voiceover states:
Let’s not confuse our kids. Protect marriage by protecting the real meaning of marriage, only between a man and a woman.
Here are a couple of key observations:
- Use of children (key tactic; this girl is exceptionally “confused” and her sad sad eyes connect directly with the camera several times)
- Use of fear (the discomfort of having to explain to our children where babies come from, how it requires a man and a woman, how gay people can have children, etc.)
- Protecting marriage verbiage
I’m sure this ad connected well with voters in California. The little girl played her part to a T, and clearly, the two “dads” could not come up with any words to talk with their “daughter.”
In reality, the conversation would have most likely gone something like this:
Megan says you have to have a mommy and a daddy to have a baby.
Well, sweetie, a child can be raised by a mommy and a daddy or a daddy and a daddy like our family. (Note, most parents would not steer the conversation to talk about a man and woman having sex to produce a baby)
Then, what’s marriage for?
Marriage allows two people who love each other very much, like your daddy and me, to share with their family and friends their love and commitment for each other. Just like Megan’s mommy and daddy got married and love her very much, your daddy and me love each other and love you so very much. And that’s what makes a family, the love we all bring.
I don’t even have kids, and yet I could have had a better conversation than how this ad portrayed these dads! With that said, I certainly don’t want to downplay the effectiveness of this ad and the emotion that it was meant to elicit from straight parents with children. Clearly, amendment supporters know how to connect with an audience and I would fully expect we’ll see similar messages here in Minnesota.
Again, my goal in sharing these videos is to help arm each of us with tactics and information on how best to respond when we see these ads. If someone were to ask me my thoughts, I’d share something like the above with them and then I would tell them about my good friend Alexis and how she’s raising a beautiful daughter with her partner and how they love her very very much.
These ads are effective because they connect with the audience and use tried and true tactics. We’ve got to be just as effective at connecting with that audience and we need to do that by debunking some of the fear but then telling our own personal stories to match. It’s going to be a hard fight in Minnesota, that’s why it’s important to start now!
This is one of the first videos I’ve seen supporting marriage equality in Minnesota. It’s a simple video, 2 minutes in length, that interjects wedding vows with video clips of real Minnesotans that love each other. Very nicely done.
For Better, For Worse, For All. Love is Love.
Continuing the trend of marriage amendment related commercials, here’s one from Arizona that even features John McCain. This commercial uses the most common tactic I’ve seen from amendment supporters: Fear.
The male announcer, with urgency in tone and drums beating in the background, begins:
Arizona is just one court case away from having a radically new definition of marriage
He then shares how judges in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Hawaii have ruled that gay marriage is ok.
At this point, the tone of the ad changes. The drums are gone, a piano begins to play and the announcer’s voice becomes less stern. He continues with the fact that Arizona voters “have a choice for something better” and that “marriage deserves to be protected.”
John McCain concludes the message asking voters to join him in voting yes on Arizona’s marriage amendment.
Even with John McCain, this ad falls short. While the message is strong on the fear front, it fails to address how the realization of that fear would impact Arizonans. Instead, the ad uses the same old tired argument that marriage needs to be protected. It may be this lack of connection with the audience that is partially to blame for the fact that Arizona was the first (and only) state in the nation that failed to pass such a measure (one has since passed).
Here’s another Prop 8 ad from California. This one leverages the familiar concept of the Mac vs PC ads Apple ran for a couple years. On the right, you have a younger man who is “No on Prop 8” while on the left, a larger, older man is “Yes.”
The ad talks about “fairness and dignity” and “discrimination” (I’ll explain the quotes momentarily). The ad also uses the tactic of highlighting what _should_ be more important to Californians than stopping same-sex marriage (the economy, war, etc.)
Overall, the ad is watchable, but it lacks any real connection with the audience. The Mac vs PC ads were hip, catchy and there were a lot of them. This allowed people to connect to the campaign over time. In the Prop 8 ad, there’s no real personal investment in either character.
Not only that, but the ad used words like discrimination and fairness. You may recall that I recently posted an article that highlights the fact that those terms just don’t resonate with voters on this issue. Voters don’t see a lack of marriage equality rights as discrimination.
So in essence, the characters didn’t connect and the message fell flat. Meanwhile, Prop 8 supporters were running ads featuring lovable children and focusing on how Prop 8 would help protect them.
Overall, I don’t think NO on 8 is terrible ad. The concept is cute and the message _should_ resonate. However, we’ve learned time and time again that in order for the message to resonate on this topic, it has to be personal in nature. Here’s a great example of how this learning was applied by Get Up! Action for Australia. This ad uses no words, but instead, tells a personal story through a series of video clips. The 5 MILLION plus views this video has received in just months highlights the importance of character connection and a powerful message.
If you’d like to see how one person has already applied the learning here in Minnesota, check out my post For Better, For Worse, For All. While not an official ad, you’ll see the personal stories tactic applied.
Over the next week, I’m going to be sharing some ads that have aired in various states supporting marriage amendments. It’s important to understand the tactics that will be used here in Minnesota so that we can prepare friends and family for them and how to respond.
The above ad was run in California by supporters of Prop 8 and features no spoken words. Instead, the video features a little girl (maybe 2 or 3?) playing with two dolls: A groom and a wife. For the duration of the ad, she twirls and holds the dolls while a soft guitar strums in the background.
In the last five seconds of the 30 second ad, the words: “Marriage. It’s simple. Vote Yes on Prop 8” appear.
This ad features a common tactic used by amendment supporters: children. Time and time again, strategists have found that using children resonates with voters on the issue of marriage, especially those opposing same-sex marriage. In other commercials I’ll post, you’ll see another common tactic used, fear. Fear, combined with children (our kids will be taught about gay marriage in kindergarten if this passes, etc.) has been a winning strategy in many states.
This ad is designed to show that even from an early age, children know how marriage is defined. However, there’s a critical fault to the logic: the child in this ad only knows what she has been taught. A similar ad could have been used in the 60s; a child of that time would have held up the same two white dolls and the text at the end of the ad would have read the same. The only difference is that the ad would have been in opposition to interracial marriage at the time. Just because a child may be taught one thing or another, it doesn’t make it an accurate representation of society.
While the logic flaw is clear, make no mistake, this type of ad resonates extremely well with voters. In seeing the ad, the voter thinks, “Yeah, that does make sense. If we don’t pass this amendment, how will children be impacted?” But now that we better understand the tactic, we can help others think about an ad like this differently when they see it.
When these ads start to surface (online, TV, print), we need to talk about them and share our thoughts. My hope is that our friends, family and colleagues will think more along the lines of, “Marriage is about love and commitment and that’s what I want to teach our children.”
And that’s the kind of thinking is what will defeat this thing.
Note: Watch for additional commercials in the coming weeks.
Here’s something cool and interesting to follow over the next couple of months. Same-sex marriage supporters are working to put together a comic in support of marriage equality. From Comics Alliance:
Little Heart is a proposed anthology comic in support of marriage equality, presenting stories and vignettes about love by an impressive roster of cartoonists and illustrators from around the world…
The comic will be produced in partnership by Minneapolis publisher 2D Cloud and [MN]Love. According to the site, the goal of the comic is to “get people talking about the marriage equality issue ahead of the effort to ban same sex marriage at the polls in Minnesota in November.”
To secure funding for the project, the groups have created a Kick Starter project and have offered several rewards for those who donate to the cause. Several of the reward levels get you a copy of the comic when it’s complete. As of Saturday, March 17, it appears that the project is a go as the teams have secured the funds they need!
Another creative approach to defeat this mean-spirited amendment. Here’s hoping the project turns out well!
Pope Benedict XVI is once again speaking out on the topic of gay marriage. In an address to a delegation of bishops from Minnesota and other states, the pope once again shared how important it is for the church to defend marriage. He also shared how it is important to take on the topic of cohabitation and to emphasize that it is “gravely sinful” and “damaging to the stability of society.”
The Minnesota Catholic Conference has already contributed at least $750,000 for the amendment campaign and vows to raise more. At some point, I do hope that our government steps in and says enough mixing of church and state.
It sounds like the Democratic National Committee (DNC) may be discussing whether or not to add marriage equality as a plank in the party platform. According to the Washington Blade, Chair of the LGBT Cuucus, Rick Stafford, said that he personally supports including a marriage equality plank in the party platform.
This is super interesting stuff! Imagine if the Democratic Party took a stand on the issue of same-sex marriage and marriage equality. It sure would add a lot more support to the marriage amendment fight we have going on in Minnesota and in other states. Stay tuned!
I’ve got to say, this MinnPost article is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. The author, Beth Hawkins, does a great job exploring the importance of messaging in amendment battles. She also includes several examples of amendment advertisements within the story. Over the next week, I’ll dig into some of the examples she provides in the article, along with others available online. It’s fascinating to think about what resonates with voters.
It’s also fascinating to learn more about the in-depth studies that were done after the Prop 8 loss in California. As time allows, I’ll do some digging into the studies and share some of those learnings on this blog as well.
We’re going to be seeing a lot of ads (TV, online, print) as both sides pour a lot of money into Minnesota targeting those voters in the middle. I’m hopeful that in sharing ads (from both sides) readers will be armed with responses when we see similar ads start to spring up here.
Oh, and Beth Hawkins, consider me a fan. ;)
Kudos to ice cream maker, Ben & Jerry’s, who rebranded an existing flavor this week in Britain to show support of marriage quality in the U.K.
The packaging for “Apple-y Ever After” features a same-sex couple atop a wedding cake decorated with rainbow stripes.
According to the Washington Post:
“The point is to raise awareness around same-sex marriage issues,” company spokeswoman Liz Stewart said Friday.
This isn’t the first time that the ice cream maker has stepped out in support of same-sex marriage. In 2009 when Vermont passed a similar measure, they rebranded their Chubby Hubby ice cream flavor to Hubby Hubby.
What a “sweet” story to end the week!
Happy for my friends in North Carolina right about now! Cool to see Obama come out in opposition for Amendment One on Friday:
“While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples,” said Cameron French, the Obama campaign’s North Carolina spokesman, in a statement. “That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do — it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples — and that’s why the president does not support it.”
Here’s hoping the President’s opposition to the amendment helps sway voters who are undecided or would otherwise vote for this mean-spirited and discriminatory amendment. We will be keeping close tabs on NC over the next two months!
While this won’t happen, I love that Catholics for Marriage Equality Minnesota have asked Archbishop Nienstedt and all bishops in the state to withdraw financial support for the marriage amendment. Apparently, Bishop Malone of Maine announced there that the Catholic Hierarchy would take no active role in “fundraising, staffing, advertising, or campaigning against marriage equality” earlier this month. Would be great to see Minnesota Catholics follow suit, however, we’ve already seen their fundraising arm in full action and can expect a lot more where that came from.
Here’s an opinion piece in response to Chuck Darrell’s arguments for the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. In this response, Deborah Factor of Rochester agrees with Mr. Darrell’s believe that we need to “promote family structures that foster positive outcomes for kids” and that when same-sex couples have the right to marry, they do just that. Their lives, and the lives of their children, become more secure. Factor goes on to say that by providing same-sex couples the same stability and dignity given to their heterosexual counterparts, we actually strengthen the institution of marriage across the board.
Kudos to you, Ms. Factor. I, for one, will be voting NO with you in November!
In a Commentary piece for MPR News, Adam J. Copeland does a fantastic job helping to demystify the notion that all Christians are voting for the Minnesota marriage amendment this fall. He shares 5 key points:
- There is no one Christian position
- We all support families
- Gay and lesbians are not “others” or “alien;” they are our neighbors, our family members, our coworkers and our friends
- The Biblical argument is hotly contested
- Traditional labels do not always apply and may not be helpful
Mr. Copeland concludes the article in a way that still gives me goosebumps. He shares that he indeed will be voting against the amendment, however, that’s not the point his readers should take away:
More broadly, I hope Minnesota conducts the looming debate in a way that might make us all proud, whether or not our position wins a majority vote.
Diversity of opinion is part of what makes our state great. We can show our Minnesota values by debating our differences with civility, humility, and kindness.
Kudos to you, Mr. Copeland. And thank you for sharing the story of the Pastor and his “vote no” yard sign.