Ad Watch

Written by Morgan Pehme on . Posted in AdWatch, Campaigns/Elections.


Candidate: Joe Carvin
Produced by: Focus Media (Goshen, N.Y.)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: Carvin hangs the problems of the recession on his opponent, longtime Rep. Nita Lowey, while contrasting her record with his own.

Pros: This television spot satisfies the basic requirements for a paint-by-numbers attack ad.

Cons: The clear use of stock footage in the first half of the ad, followed exclusively by still photos of Carvin in the second, is a tip-off that the production team didn’t actually film with the candidate. The result is an ad that feels as generic as it is.

Expert Opinion: “Unmemorable and ineffective. The spot looks cheap and relies on nondescript stock imagery and dizzying graphics in an attempt to draw a contrast between Lowey and Carvin, but ineffectively attacks Lowey by instead making predictable, talking point-esque references to the direction of the country and her vague role in it without personalizing the message to resonate with voters in Westchester and Rockland counties. The Carvin campaign may have been better off going with a straight negative spot, directly and specifically attacking Lowey’s voting record.”
Austin Finan, Director, Mercury

“Children’s Champion”

Candidate: Tim Kennedy
Produced by: Storefront Political Media (San Francisco)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: Going positive with his first ad, state Sen. Kennedy uses adorable babies to play up his legislative record on children- and family-related issues.

Pros: This ad essentially posits: Sen. Kennedy loves babies. You love babies. Therefore you should vote for Sen. Kennedy. QED.

Cons: If you replaced the voice-over and swapped out the headlines, this ad could just as readily be selling fabric softener or toilet paper until Kennedy appears in the end. Though perhaps that’s a plus. It’s hard to tear into an ad so brimming with babies. Sure, it’s stock footage, but it’s stock footage of babies! And so what if the pieces of legislation mentioned in the ad only tangentially relate to babies (bullying while driving?)? Don’t you like babies?

Expert Opinion: “For a swing voter who is not closely following the details of the campaign, this ad is positive and a softer way to approach the audience. It may engage women voters with the female narrator and the images of diverse babies, which men are not immune to either. However, for a voter who is following political issues more closely, this ad may appear to be pandering and without deep substance. Having said this, it’s hard to imagine that it will turn off many voters. It’s not the most creative ad we’ve seen, but it is surely among the least offensive.”
Sarah Berman, President, The Berman Group, Inc.

“Made in America”

Candidate: Louise Slaughter
Produced by: McKenna Pihlaja (Washington, D.C.)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: Rep. Slaughter fires up an enthusiastic crowd, distancing herself from Washington, D.C., and championing a pro–“Made In America” economic agenda.

Pros: By showing Slaughter speak powerfully in a real-life scenario (though the rally does feel a bit staged), this ad aims to establish the candidate as genuine. The documentary film aesthetic only enhances this impression, depicting Slaughter in a light that appears unvarnished while playing up her stature with confident, cinematic close-ups.

Cons: While Slaughter’s remarks are met with a chorus of applause and cheers, this ad does not show her connecting one-on-one with voters. Follow-up ads will likely depict the candidate relating to her constituents.

Expert Opinion: “It’s an effective opening ad for Congresswoman Slaughter, reminding upstate voters both that she has a record as a fighter for the kinds of issues they care about and that she still has significant “fire”—to address any questions about her age. She’s in a more conservative district after redistricting, and I would expect future ads to draw more direct contrasts with her opponent.”
—Stephen Sigmund, SVP/Managing Director, Communications, Global Strategy Group

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