MSNBC Announces ‘Lean Forward’ (This Won’t Hurt a Bit) Campaign

by Daniel Foster

I have in my possession a press release from MSNBC about the launching next week of a new campaign dubbed “Lean Forward”, a wall-to-wall re-branding effort complete with Spike Lee directed ads. The campaign is being packaged as “an invitation to viewers – and the nation – to Advance the issues” and “move America ahead.”

Check out the manic, seemingly arbitrary collage that heralds the strategy:

I can only say bravo to the ad wizards who sold MSNBC on this one. Besides being ripe for parody — in response, Fox News should change its tag-line to ‘Start With Your Weight On Your Back Foot, Swing From The Shoulder, And Rotate Your Torso Through The Punch’ — the ‘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.

What a waste of money.

Meanwhile, that 800-pound gorilla in the room — Fox News — is conspicuous by its absence from the announcement. The MSNBC release goes on at length about how the network has “topped CNN for four consecutive quarters” across a variety of time slots and demographics. But it says nothing about the pummeling it takes at the hands of the big boys. This is but more continuity. MSNBC — the network that employs Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann — has long taken the nose-aloft position that Fox News is biased and unserious, and thus not a ‘real’ competitor.

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