The Runback: Overpromising and Underdelivering

It's the most basic rule of advertising and politics, and this is why you shouldn't do it.

Welcome to the first edition of The Runback where we’ll round up the best of the last week at The Duckpin, as well as start you off with some food for thought.

It was quite a week here at The Duckpin since it was, after all, our very first week of existence. But I think that you’ve gotten to see a bit of the flavor of what The Duckpin is going to be all about.

Have you been enjoying it? Do you have comments or suggestions? Do you want to write for us? Let me know at theduckpin@gmail.com

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Ahead this Week

  • Major League Baseball is expected to announce when the season will start, a power held unilaterally by Commissioner Rob Manfred after the Major League Baseball Player’s Association broke off negotiations.

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The Monday Thought

Underpromise and overdeliver. That has often been a truism of business, advertising, and politics over the last several decades.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who suggest that this is terrible advice and you shouldn’t follow it. Just Google it and you see there are plenty of people offering a contrarian viewpoint.

The most staggering examples of this philosophy are in politics. It is no coincidence why most political candidates “campaign in poetry and govern in prose” as Mario Cuomo used to put it. It’s a lot easier to talk about platitudes and general political philosophies than it is specific, concrete ideas that you want to propose or implement. Even candidates for executive offices, such as President or Governor, tend to talk about specific philosophies as opposed to actual concrete things they are = going to do.

Sometimes, candidates do. Usually, it’s where candidates get into trouble. Imagine if a candidate said that "I alone can fix itI will restore law and order” only to be elected and see widespread violence in cities across the country with that candidate, now the incumbent, doing nothing to try and help? Imagine if a candidate promised to build a border wall, an “impenetrable, physical, tall and beautiful wall” that Mexico would pay for and instead the U.S. taxpayer wound up paying billions to build what amounts to only three new miles of border wall. That usually is enough to sink any incumbent. But it’s a weird year.

One candidate who did make a lot of promises, on television, himself, to a camera was Buddy Roemer. In his 1987 campaign for Governor of Louisiana, Roemer made this commercial which is still my favorite political commercial of all time.

Roemer’s commercial, made on the cheap, was a Hail Mary pass for a longshot campaign that ultimately won the Governor’s race. And Roemer met just about every one of those campaign promises.

(He also lost re-election in 1991 in a bizarre election that involved him switching parties and David Duke. Louisiana is a weird place when it comes to politics)

All of that brings me to this.

The WWE has been billing Edge vs Randy Orton from last night’s WWE Backlash pay-per-view as THE GREATEST WRESTLING MATCH EVER. Before it ever aired. Before it was ever recorded.

Well, the match aired tonight as the main event to tonight’s show. And it was……….there.

Don’t get me wrong. The match was fine for what it was. It wasn’t the worst match on the card. It wasn’t the worst segment on the card (that was by far the previous segment that involved broken windshields, turkey legs, and possibly the monster from Cloverfield).

But this match clearly suffered from the WWE hype machine blasting this company line the last several weeks.

I wasn’t nearly as positive as Mr. Konuwa was. But I also wonder; was it because of the hype. Was it because of all of the glitz and overproduction that was put into the match? Would this match have stood up on its own? I don’t know because I was so jaded from the labeling of it as THE GREATEST WRESTLING MATCH EVER before it ever happened that I sat there the entire match waiting to be disappointed. There was no universe where Edge-Orton was going to be mentioned in the same breath as Flair-Steamboat or Omega-Okada.

Was it good? Probably? Was it The Greatest Match of All Time? Nowhere close. Was it the Greatest WWE Match of All Time? Again, nowhere close. It wasn’t even the greatest WWE match of the last calendar year (That was WALTER vs Tyler Bate at NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff). But with the hype, the performers were doomed to fail. And they did, by no fault of their own.

And this is the point I’m getting at; the WWE has made a cottage industry of overpromising and underdelivering in the past few years and their bottom line (and to a very small extent mine as an owner of one share of WWE stock) is suffering for it. Fans are starting to zone out from the product and looking for alternatives elsewhere. Let’s just say it’s not a coincidence that All Elite Wrestling is doing so well as an upstart competitor.

And don’t get me wrong. Pro wrestling has many times over the years been involved in this type of absolutely overhyped coverage of the wrong thing. Both WWE and World Championship Wrestling made a cottage industry of it during the Monday Night Wars. And sure, in many instances, such grandiose declarations were made in the past tense. But far too often these predictions are being made for the future, not the past. At some point, people hear the cry “wolf” just a little too often and spend their time and their money elsewhere.

This is true of politics and business as well. When I see claims on a TV ad for a product, I dismiss it. I know the product can’t be that good.

When I see politicians say they are going to do all of these concrete actions, I dismiss it. Sometimes it’s because the politician is too overconfident in their abilities. Often it’s because the candidate is clearly ignorant as to the limitations of the position they seek.

So what should people do? Be honest, be forthright, and be limiting. Say “these are my goals” and show us how you plan on getting there. Example: when Larry Hogan ran for Governor of Maryland in 2014, he said that he would end Martin O’Malley’s run of consecutive tax increases and he would reign in the state budget. He did both of those things, and he was re-elected easily in a very bad year for Republicans.

Maybe the message here is that the WWE is taking their cues from the wrong elected officials….