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How's MSNBC's New Image Campaign Going?


"[A] confession via euphemism..."

On Tuesday, MSNBC launched a new two year branding and marketing campaign called "Lean Forward." The New York Times describes the campaign and its slogan as "embrac[ing] its progressive political identity." While only a couple days old, it's having mixed results.

True to its progressive form, the ad campaign will feature President Obama in two 60-second commercials. In fact, during the launch of the campaign, the Times reports that MSNBC used a taped Obama speech that "coincidentally sum[s] up the channel’s progressive message":

“We can go backward, or we can keep moving forward,” the president was shown saying in a June speech at Carnegie Mellon University. “And I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward.”

That ad campaign also seems to pay homage to Obama in at least one of the commercials he does not appear in. The video used to mark the campaign’s kickoff is called “Declaration of Forward.” In it, the  speaker recites a modified version of the Declaration of Independence omitting, like Obama has done twice, any reference to a Creator and taking other liberties with the founding document's language:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/dnzb2GSlCsY?fs=1&hl=en_US expand=1]

(H/T: Daily Caller)

Over at National Review, Daniel Foster and his readers have noticed something else about the campaign:

A number of readers have pointed out that MSNBC’s new tag-line is but a letter away from “Leap Forward” — as in, Mao’s Great one.

Foster's also convinced that the campaign is a repackaged version of an old (and now hip) message:

[T]he ‘Lean Forward’ concept seems a rather half-hearted attempt by MSNBC to gloss its same-old lefty line with a coat of empty post-ideological babble (sort of like ‘Yes, We Can!’), while still deploying the right signal words to its core liberal audience. In an announcement for the campaign, network VP Sharon Otterman says “MSNBC wants to be the champion for those who believe in progress,” and that the taglinge “captures the cultural momentum for progress that resonates strongly with our audience.” Who could she be talking to here?

“Lean Forward” isn’t a re-branding, it’s a confession via euphemism that MSNBC will continue to be what they’ve always been.

Mediaite's Steve Krakauer notices a glaring contradiction in one of the campaign's still photo ads:

"The ad of Olbermann will be part of the print campaign – although it’s a little strange that he’s…leaning back."

However, Krakauer is optimistic about the campaign's future: "If it can have the same mainstream impact as 'Fair and Balanced,' it will have achieved its goal."

Ed Driscoll at pagamasmedia.com is a little more critical. He's come up with some new ad posters:

Back to the drawing board?

Maybe not for the ad campaign, but MSNBC.com is considering a major change: its name. According to the Times's Brian Stelter, the news website isn't happy that MSNBC and MSNBC.com are often confused with each other, especially considering that the website is supposed to be objective while "the cable channel ... has taken a strongly liberal bent in recent years." Talks center around dedicating the address MSNBC.com to the cable channel, and moving the current site over to a new url with a new name.

Is it a good move? Stelter doesn't seem to think so:

Giving up a Web address as popular as MSNBC.com is highly unusual; it is akin to a business closing a bustling storefront and posting a sign that asks customers to visit its new location. For a Web site, at least, the new location is only a click away; nonetheless, MSNBC.com may risk sacrificing years of built-up brand loyalty by coining a new name for the news site.

Between new ad campaigns and new names, its safe to say that MSNBC is aware of its poor ratings and needs to do something about it. And it seems it can go one of two ways: appeal and pander to a liberal crowd or look to frame itself as objective. The "Lean Forward" campaign, as well as changing a website so it can mirror the views of the network's TV hosts, hints at the path its choosing.

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