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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 11/ 4/2008

Freedman: TV Weather Attack Ads?

By Andrew Freedman

As the two-year national 'stressathon' known as the presidential election comes to a close today, many of us face a daunting question: what will we do with ourselves tomorrow, when we don't have the suspense of an election to obsess about? Will we be the same people we were before this prolonged campaign season began? Or will we find that the barrage of negative ads and wall-to-wall cable news campaign coverage have forever altered us, and turned us into political news addicts?

Personally, I can't remember how I spent my time before there was a constant stream of campaign news to grab my attention. Like many of you, I've recently been investing more time in watching media coverage of the election than I have in meeting my actual responsibilities (and I have the barely respectable graduate school grades to prove it).

Perhaps there is a way, however, to avoid the anxiety-inducing drastic change from a political news diet during the runup to Nov. 4th, back to a weather and science diet (or whatever your media diet may be) on Nov. 5th. Maybe now is an ideal time to bring some campaign tactics to other media - the weather media.

Keep reading for some sample weather attack ads.

What I am about to propose is a terrible idea, but I hope that it will be an amusing distraction from your agonizing wait for the polls to close and the results to stream in this evening.

Here's the proposal: Considering that more people have grown accustomed to negative advertising during this election, perhaps the time is right for this political tactic to be extended beyond the campaign trail. The TV weather business is an ideal place for such an expansion. It's extremely cutthroat, and stations routinely air ads to tout their forecasters' skills or technology. See the following examples:

What if fiercely competitive stations were to take their current practices a step further, and take a cue from the 2008 campaign season by attacking rival weathercasters for being inaccurate, favoring one type of weather over another, or for forecasting against a change the weather needs?

Here are two proposed scripts for related TV weather attack ads, using fake names.

First attack ad:

For the past eight years, you've invited Channel 5 meteorologist George Magee into your living room, thinking that you were getting an accurate forecast. But did you know that during winter storms he forecast light snow or no snow at all 90 percent of the time, and he opposed the heavy snow events that snow lovers so desperately wanted? He failed to anticipate the blizzard of 2003, and instead called for only "minor accumulations.
Face it, Washingtonians: George Magee hates snow, and loves wintry mixes. It's time to turn to a forecaster who is one of you, and understands the excitement of a day off from school or work.
Unlike Magee, who was born and bred in sunny Southern California, Channel 4 meteorologist Mike Tobeman grew up as a weather geek in snowy Buffalo, New York, where he learned snow-loving values. Unlike George Magee, he represents the kid inside each of us, who enjoys an occasional snowstorm.
Mike Tobeman rides a toboggan to work everyday, even on bare ground. That's how committed he is to doing his part to bring winter to you. Switch off from Channel 5's snow-hating forecaster George Magee, and say hello to Mike Tobeman - your source for winter weather wishcasting. I'm Mike Tobeman and I approved this message.

Second attack ad:

Channel 5 meteorologist George Magee has a fancy Doppler radar. It has lots of colors, but do you have any idea what they mean? Probably not, because it has too many vibrant shades, and when it is set into motion it becomes disorienting. Reds and yellows and greens fly across the screen, with boxes and triangles and lines making it impossible to interpret the images.
Public health authorities have declared the 'neighborhood view' feature of Magee's radar a danger to epileptics, yet he still uses it. In contrast to this menace, Channel 4 meteorologist Mike Tobeman employs the radar his station bought ten years ago, which he transports to work everyday on the back of his sled. It has two colors: light green, and dark green. If you see the dark green, that means trouble is brewing.
Sure, Channel 4's radar may not be as expensive as Channel 5's, but at least it's easier to understand. Also, it won't kill you when you to watch it. So that's a plus. I'm Mike Tobeman and I approved this message.

So clearly this is a terrible idea, but in some ways I kind of want to see it come to fruition. Perhaps that's just the pre-November 4 side of me though, and I'll feel differently tomorrow.

By Andrew Freedman  | November 4, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Freedman, Humor, Media, Satire  
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Next: PM Update: As Voting Winds Down, Rain Increases


"what will we do with ourselves tomorrow, when we don't have the suspense of an election to obsess about? "

We will read all the long range winter 2008-2009 forecasts, and obsess about predicted snowfall amounts.
What else?

Posted by: Snowlover2 | November 4, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Great humorous read, Andrew.

Advertisements for TV meteorologists can embarrassingly backfire. I recall when station XYZ advertised its new super-duper, dual Doppler radar (or something like that) - one that made it the only station that sees all and misses nothing when it comes to severe weather - had to eat crow when the weather broadcaster soon after the advertisement had to apologize for not warning of the intense thunderstorm and related winds which devastated a local community (real story).

Though not an advertisement, but rather a public announcement, I can't help but remember the NOAA statement on January 18, 2000 about it's new super computer which "puts us closer to reaching our goal of becoming America's no surprise weather service".

Two days later Washington was hit by a storm still referred to (affectionately by some, including me) as the "no-surprise, surprise snowstorm". It led to the infamous Oliphant cartoon with the caption, "with our new equipment our supercomputer models and enhanced programming, we will now be able to be wrong much quicker"

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | November 4, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

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