Jay Leno returns to the Tonight Show this week, thus ending a celebrity drama that had its share of communications lessons. Promos have been running throughout the Olympics, but one enterprising YouTube user decided to add an alternate soundtrack:
My former employer, Morton Blackwell, was very active in the 1964 campaign of Barry Goldwater. That campaign had a theme – “In your heart, you know he’s right” – that doesn’t really work in politics. One of the key lessons Morton would teach neophyte political operatives was that being philosophically correct did not always translate into electoral success. After Goldwater’s drubbing in 1964, those who had been in his corner broke into two camps, as Morton described it. Some became cynical, and vowed to leave politics, the other side vowed to fight for their ideas rather than with them.
One of the elements that made this second camp successful – and allowed them to regroup and elect Ronald Reagan in 1980 – was a lack of cynicism and a positive attitude.
And that’s why this speech, even if it is only about a silly little TV show, is worth repeating:
There are always places – in the world and the media landscape – for new and innovative ideas. Those places aren’t always easy to find, but are usually worth the search.
New England hasn’t seen an upset like Scott Brown’s win since Superbowl 42 – and much of the credit deservedly goes to his campaign’s ability to harness support from Republicans across the country through online organizing and remote phone banks. Compare that to the other online campaign making news lately: the “I’m with CoCo” movement supporting deposed Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien.
While O’Brien cleverly positioned himself to the People of Earth, the online effort to build support has not been effective – even though it has translated to angry mobs descending on NBC affiliates calling on O’Brien to keep his current gig. The shortcoming? The online movement – which appears largely viewer-generated – isn’t focusing on activities which will affect NBC’s bottom line.
Scott Brown’s online efforts were all geared to mobilize voters and volunteers who could drive more voters to the polls. Outside of fraud and cheating, winning more voters is the easiest way to win an election.
NBC counts votes in two ways: ratings and, more importantly, advertising dollars. A more effective CoCo Movement might target Tonight Show advertisers, warning them of boycotts. A well-publicized action against a current Jay Leno sponsor might be a good shot across the bow.
Johnny Carson’s old chair is not “The People’s Seat.” Rallies and large Facebook groups may snag short-term media attention, but NBC feels like they can win more “votes” with Jay Leno behind the Tonight Show desk and until the CoCo movement translates into viewers and dollars, nothing will dissuade them.