I was visiting my mom one afternoon a few months ago when I noticed a book by Art Robinson lying on the coffee table. I was sort of taken aback; Art Robinson, for the uninitiated, is a Republican running for U.S. Congress here in Oregon, and I’d never heard my mom express anything other than disgust when his name came up in conversation. So you can imagine my confusion at seeing a book — not a flimsy political pamphlet, but a thick-ass book — sitting in her living room with his name and picture printed across the front. I asked why in God’s name she would buy Robinson’s book if she hated the guy so much.
“I didn’t buy it,” she replied. “It came in the mail.”
I blinked. “The mail?”
“They’re just mailing out his book?”
I looked at it again. “It looks like it’s about 400 pages long.”
“So . . . their campaign strategy is to mail out his book for free?”
“That . . . that’s a terrible idea.”
She shrugged. “His loss.”
The book made its new home in the recycling bin a short while later. Meanwhile, I wondered what campaign strategist comes up with the idea to mail free copies of a rather thick book to people all over the district, and why that person still has a job.
A couple of months passed; I found myself having dinner at my mom’s house one Friday evening when we were interrupted by a knock at the front door. I craned my head around to see out the picture window and saw a skinny guy with a mustache and big, square glasses on the front porch; with a wee bit more muscle mass, he could have passed for Napoleon Dynamite’s older brother Kip. My mother answered the door and I listened in.
“Good evening, I was wondering if I could talk to you about Art Robinson,” said Kip.
“Oh, no thanks,” my mom said. “I don’t plan on voting for him.”
A brief pause. “Oh. Well, did you get his book in the mail?”
“I did, yes.”
“Did you read it?”
Another pause, and then the unthinkable. “Can we have it back?”
My jaw almost hit the table. They sent out a free book and now they’re asking for it back? What the hell kind of advertising campaign is that? Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised; this is the same candidate whose campaign had previously sent my mother a flyer that took some colorful liberties with common English spelling:
To give Robinson the benefit of the doubt, I guess it’s possible that they spelled it that way on purpose and that “meat art” is their new, avant garde approach to campaigning. Maybe I should have taken a chance and shown up with my own ground-beef sculpture of Art Robinson for the meat art show. (It would be a pun, see? “Meat Art!” GET IT?)
Anyway, Kip stood on the porch with a look on his face that was sad, yet defiant. Yeah, I asked for the book back, his eyes said from behind his overlarge, square glasses. What’re you gonna do about it, toots? I wondered how many non-supporters he’d confronted the same way on his little errand.
I could almost hear my mother’s smile as she replied, “You could, but I tossed it in the recycling.”
“Oh.” There was now a noticeable chill in his voice. “Good night, then.”
I was more amused by it than anything else. An ad campaign that involves mailing free books to 155,000 households (according to Robinson’s website) seems ill-advised on its own. Mailing out that free book and then asking for it back goes beyond ill-advised, beyond stupid, beyond pants-on-head moronic — it’s just sort of a dick move.
I studied advertising in college, but ultimately decided against pursuing it as a career (partly because it’s a very cutthroat industry and also because I need to be able to like myself when I wake up in the morning). But I did learn a handful of things during the time I spent studying ad campaigns and brand identity, and douchebaggery like mailing out free stuff and asking for it back wasn’t in any of my classes.
Meat Art, though . . . I can get behind that.