Beware of kittens with red bows

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Beware of kittens with red bows 

By Tom Randall

August 17, 2009
 
When following the progress of healthcare and cap-and-trade legislation and talk of giveaways such as eliminating the public option, one should beware of kittens with red bows around their necks.
 
When I was a green-as-grass advertising copywriter, new to the craft's big time, a wizened old copy chief taught me a valuable lesson.  
 
Hot-shot that I was (don't worry, humility-generating reality will find its way into this cautionary tale), I had come up with a brilliant ad campaign that was markedly different than the way the company I worked for had promoted this particular line of products.  I lined the rail in the copy chief's office with the comps of my ads.  He looked at each of them closely, then, as I explained the rationale behind the campaign, he closed his eyes, put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair as he listened.  This did not seem to be going well.
 
I finished.
 
He rubbed the top of his balding head with both hands. Then leaned forward, put his elbows on the desk with his hands over his eyes and said not a word.
 
Rats!  I started to gather up the comps.
 
Wait, he said.  They're good.  I just can't sell them to the creative director, V.P. of advertising and their staffs.
 
He got to his feet and pointing to specific spots on each comp and said put a kitten with a red bow around its neck here…here…here . . .here…
 
I was completely puzzled.  Kittens with red bows were completely irrelevant.  He told me to just do it and get them back to him tomorrow.
 
I did.  A couple of days later he called me back to his office.  He handed the comps back to me with a grin and told me to just take the kittens with the red bows out and go with it.  I was stunned, confused, stammering.
 
He explained that the guys in higher management were smart, but they had human failings and egos.  They had looked at the ads.  The kittens with bows so distracted them, because they were completely out of place, they didn't see the big change we were really making in advertising this merchandise.  They wanted to make a contribution, too.  Their contribution was to say take the _ _ _ _ _ _ _ cats out, they don't belong, then go ahead.
 
All these years later I remember that episode because it is the way onerous legislation is passed.  It is the kind of deception that created the environmental regulatory state, giving broad powers to bureaucrats who answer to no one.
 
And, it's about to happen with cap-and-trade and healthcare.
 
In the end, smart legislators in Washington who are opposing this legislation, without truly understanding it (to a man and woman they have said they haven't read it), might simply say:
 
"Take this out and that out and go with it, we'll approve it." If Obama does remove the public option from the health care legislation it will be like removing a kitten with a red bow as opposed to killing the larger campaign he is trying to win.
 
Many will never realize the "this and that" items don't really matter all that much.  In a sense, even the most onerous parts of these pieces of legislation are kittens with red bows.  It is the overall legislation, itself, that should not exist.  If passed in any form, the bills will provide the framework for eventual nationalization of both energy and medicine.  And since the government can't provide either, both will be limited, rationed, more costly and allowed to stagnate in their development.
 
If something can't be sold openly, with thorough and public examination, without the benefit of "kittens with bows", it shouldn't be bought by any of us.
 
Oh, in case you were wondering, the ad campaign was a flop.
 
Contact: Tom Randall
Winningreen LLC
Phone: 773-857-5086
e-mail: trandall@winningreen.com