Hey! While we're young! - Nymblesmith
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Hey! While we’re young!

Great ingredients aren’t everything

Critiquing the USGA’s anti-slow-play campaign
Today is Fathers Day in America. For fans of the game, that means it is the final day of the United States Open Golf Championship. What that also means this year is we are bound to be subjected to the USGA’s latest tired, year-old public service campaign. This is a spot that should have killed. But it didn’t. It was supposed to go viral and speed up the pace of play on golf courses around the country. But it didn’t. For one… simple… reason. It just isn’t believable.

Take a gander for yourself.

Since the blue blazers of the USGA have seen fit to recycle this unfortunate ad for a second year, I feel ok breaking my compliments-only critique rule on Nymblog.

The unadulterated beauty of Pebble Beach’s short 7th hole is seen over the shoulder of an all too familiar voice. The man is talking himself into the shot he needs to play and taking too, too long for the even more familiar figure standing behind the tee.

“Hey! While we’re young!” Shouts the King, Arnold Palmer.

The familiar voice gives way to the still more familiar stare of Clint Eastwood. And Arnold blinks, then backs down.

The good
The concept is great. The potential for being truly in your face against a huge problem in the game is incredible. When they first announced a campaign against slow play, I thought “good for you! It’s about time!” When they said they were going to use the “hey, while we’re young!” Line from Caddyshack, I thought, “Gunga Galunga!” But then I saw the spots.

The bad
The spot actually sends the polar opposite message of it’s intention. The objective is to inform the golfing public that slow play should not be tolerated. The message is, the obnoxious slow guy can intimidate the nice, weak guy trying to speed him up. The result, the angry, obnoxious guy will play even slower either because he’s now rattled by the argument or more likely, he wants to intentionally cheese off the guy behind him.

Tiger Woods as seen during the 1996 U.S. Amateur Championship at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Oregon. (Copyright USGA/Robert Walker)

The ugly
They are asking us to believe something that is abjectly impossible in the real world. Arnold Palmer never backed down against anyone in his life. In the spot, he looks unnatural and a little embarrassed that the script portrays him that way.

In golf there were only two tougher stares – Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan.

In all of sports, there were only a few others. Bob Gibson in baseball. Mark Messier in hockey. Mike Singletary in football. None of these guys back down.

This is how we think of Arnold Palmer.

And as much as I love and respect Clint Eastwood, the thought of him backing down on what is right for the game – picking up the pace of play – is totally wrong and worse, inauthentic.

I also don’t want to seem like I’m piling on the USGA. I’m usually a big defender of the governing body of our sport. I even caddied for PJ Boatwright, Frank Hannigan and Frank Thomas when I was a kid. They do many, many things right. But they seem to have missed the core on this one.

The lesson
If you are going to create anything that sends a message – a tv spot, a radio ad, an email, a tweet, a grocery list – make sure you keep your eye on the ball. If you lose track of the objective, you could end up looking silly, confused, distracted or worse, amateurish.

Good intentions aren’t enough. Always remember what you’re trying to achieve.

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