Opinion Brief

MSNBC's new slogan: What does it even mean?

MSNBC has introduced a revamped tagline, "Lean Forward," in an effort to define itself as a progressive beacon — but some pundits are recoiling

Yesterday, MSNBC announced its new slogan, "Lean Forward" — part of a plan to give itself a clearly progressive political position and brand itself as memorably as juggernaut Fox News has with the provocative phrase "Fair and Balanced." MSNBC's slogan is part of a comprehensive, two-and-a-half year campaign that includes ads in subways and newspapers, as well as TV commercials directed by Spike Lee. Will it work?

It's vague and ineffective: "I can only say bravo to the ad wizards who sold MSNBC on this one," says Daniel Foster at National Review. The new slogan, "Lean Forward" is nothing but a "half-hearted attempt... to gloss its same-old lefty line with a coat of empty post-ideological babble." It's also vulnerable to parody: Maybe 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.'""MSNBC announces 'Lean Forward' (this won't hurt a bit) ad campaign"

It smacks of ratings opportunism: MSNBC has "finally given into its fate" as the left-wing alternative to Fox News, says Hamilton Nolan at Gawker — "unless it doesn't work, at which point they'll try something else." And it won't work: Until MSNBC they can be as "brazen and committed" to an airtight political philosophy as Fox, their right-wing rival "will always have the upper hand.""MSNBC's futile quest to beat Fox at its own game"

It'll work if it becomes ubiquitous: The ad campaign may pay off if MSNBC can get it to go viral, says Steve Krakauer at Mediaite, and recruiting Spike Lee to direct TV spots was a "bold and high profile choice." But the strategy seems confused: The network's "sleek campaign, while winking at the idea of progressivism, has been mostly about unity and patriotism so far." (Watch an ad below)"Lean Forward"

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