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Hard to believe a new season's on us already.

Maybe not. Viewers quickly tired of the blowhard wannabe boss in "Season 4--The Jersey Sore." He was one of those characters that shows so much promise when he's introduced, but proves to have no staying power.

But have no fear, "These Guys" fans. There's a plot twist nobody in The Organization saw coming: none of the "bosses" are really the Boss. In fact, the real bosses aren't even in The Organization... officially. They are, in a twist so cliched it can only be true, Legitimate Businessmen, with interests in oil and transportation, the construction trades and, of course, waste disposal.

So sit back with a snack, break out your best wiseguyisms and get ready for yet another season of...

As always, a direct link to the video is provided.






And. . . some thoughts on political ads and videos.

A few friendly kossacks have asked me lately about what I think makes an effective political ad or video, what elements can help a vid message to go viral.

As none of mine have even achieved bacterial status, I can't say. But I'll offer some observations based on the relative success of the first "These Guys" ad.

The idea came to me as I read of more and more Iraq war architects signing on to Mitt Romney's foreign policy team. "Oh, great. Now they got that guy. Look, there's this guy." I started yammering to myself in Jersey mobster voice about "dose guys" and the thing just sort of wrote itself.

I think the reason it got the play it did was that it took a somewhat complicated issue and made it digestible by appearing to be something other than what it was. Instead of a dry, documentary lesson on these neocon weasels weaseling their way back into the corridors of power, it appeared to be a trailer for a Sopranoesque mob drama.

Without consciously intending to, I'd created what Douglas Rushkoff called a media virus, a meme that uses other memes' DNA to replicate and spread itself. His very phrase and its adjective form became media viruses themselves.

In Rushkoff's definition, media viruses are inherently subversive, as they use a host's susceptibility to other memes to infect the host. They are also inherently self-contradictory, obviously wrong as what they purport to be, so that, rather than being able to glance at one and say, "Oh, that's one of those," hosts are forced by the virus' self-contradiction to pay more attention, allowing the virus to burrow in.

The two examples he used most in his 1995 book on the subject were "The Simpsons," which masquerades as a family cartoon while spreading rather anti-authoritarian and progressive ideas, and the "smart drugs" movement which, on the surface, appeared to be advocacy of dietary supplements for improved brain function but which carried a hidden message of opposition to excessive FDA regulation of the supplement industry.

Those elements of media viruses, masquerade and self-contradiction, were, I think, why the first "These Guys" got the spread it did. While I'm not sure one can successfully craft a media virus on purpose, I think the success of that ad shows the value in sideways thinking when making political messages.

Campaigns and committees rely on ad houses and media consultants that are terribly conventional and predictable. Their product is cookie cutter.

Ominious music (open fifths with occasional minor third). Dark clouds as background to photoshopped, color-drained picture of opponent. "(State)ians are worried about jobs. But (opponent) voted against legislation that helps job creators grow jobs. (Opponent) thought loyalty to the partisan Obama agenda was more important. Or maybe (opponent) just thought you wouldn't notice. (Opponent): bad for (State), bad for America."
Slap 'em together, toss 'em on the air, collect your exorbitant media buyer's fee. And add to the sea of same-old crap people ignore and hate.

For better or worse, it's the ads that break the mold that stand out and scoop up the free media from columnists and TV pundits. Nobody, but nobody knew or cared who Joni Ernst was, or that she was running for Senate as a 'Pub in Iowa. Until she busted out with the ad about castrating hogs. Now, love her or hate her, she's nationally known. Even got the Colbert bump (on the condition that she never, ever come near him).

So my advice, for whatever it's worth, to kossacks making political vids is simple: go sideways. Do something different. It doesn't have to masquerade as something else, or be as off-putting as hog castration, but shoot for something outside the boring, predictable and eminently ignorable norm.

And, above all, have fun. If something in what you do makes you fist-jab or crack up every time you see it, it might just have that effect on other people, too.

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