AD WATCH: SPECIAL ATTACK AD EDITION

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





“Board”

Candidate: Mark Murphy
Produced by: Red Horse Strategies (Brooklyn)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: An NYPD Blue-style ad, replete with dramatizations, casts a dark light on Rep. Michael Grimm’s character.

Pros: This slickly produced ad leaves a strong resonance of the word crook while setting a visual tone of an interrogation spotlighting Grimm. The takeaway is clear and subtly flips Grimm’s credentials as a law enforcement officer against him.

Cons: The white text gets lost in the image at times and can be difficult to read, particularly given the volume of words on screen. But the weakest part of this ad is the coda with the candidate himself, who never stops moving his lips and doesn’t provide the necessary powerful counterpoint to the image so effectively cast of Grimm. It would have been more thematic to show the candidate as a stoic Gary Cooper type ready to throw the cuffs on his opponent—an image that could have been sold convincingly, given Murphy’s deep, serious voice.

Expert Opinion: “This ad does a pretty good job reminding people about all of the questions that have come up about Grimm over the last few years. And if the ad comes across as a little CSI: Miami, well, I know a lot of people that watch that show.”
Chris Coffey, Tusk Strategies


“Perfectly Poised”

Candidate: Wendy Long
Produced by: The Casale Group (Cooperstown, N.Y.)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: Long connects Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand with the Silver-Lopez sexual harassment scandal, and attacks her for not standing up for women, despite women’s rights being her signature issue.

Pros: The clip of Gillibrand is an unflattering counterpoint to the highly polished image the senator has meticulously cultivated—and hitting a candidate at her strongest point (in this case, women’s issues) is often the most damaging place to attack [e.g. Rep. Grimm’s law enforcement background (above), John Kerry’s military service].

Cons: The references to Michael Boxley, Silver’s representing the state delegation at the DNC Convention, and Gillibrand’s family’s lobbying interests will be obscure to all but a very select audience, and seem disconnected from the overall narrative of the ad.

Expert Opinion: “It’s a hot mess. It starts out like an attack ad against Speaker Silver, shifts to a convoluted argument trying to link the Lopez scandal back to Senator Gillibrand, adds in a quote which doesn’t even make a strong negative point when taken out of context, and closes by claiming that it’s really all about Senator Gillibrand’s family’s lobbying firm’s clients’ interests in the Assembly. The icing on the cake is the ad derisively referring to the senator as “Cheerleader in Chief,” a phrase which is demeaning to women, who are presumably the target of this spot.”
Doug Forand, Founding Partner, Red Horse Strategies


“Gone Tea Party”

Candidate: Sean Patrick Maloney
Produced by: SKDKnickerbocker (New York City)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: People scrunching their faces in reaction to drinking bitter tea illustrates the accusation that Rep. Nan Hayworth has allied herself with the Tea Party in Congress.

Pros: The message of this ad is unmistakable, and the candidate comes across as suave and likable.

Cons: The actors drinking tea are clearly actors, and bad actors at that. The ad’s simple message could have been conveyed clearly enough without being taken to the point of silly exaggeration. Additionally, the ad’s art direction is distractingly clumsy. Why is the burly guy drinking from a flowery cup? And if Maloney was such a trusted aide to President Clinton, how come the ad team had to use a low-resolution photo of them that looks unprofessionally blurry even on the smallest HD screens?

Expert Opinion: “The first 15 seconds of this spot look like an ad for Sensodyne toothpaste, with everybody wincing at the first sip of a hot beverage. The face-to-camera part is better. Maloney comes across as sincere and likable. I’d rank this ad marginally effective.”
Bill O’Reilly, partner, NLO Strategies


“My Whole Life”

Candidate: Dan Maffei
Produced by: Ralston Lapp Media (Washington, D.C.)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: A senior citizen who is also a nurse criticizes Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle for undermining Medicare.

Pros: This is a powerful testimonial ad that strikes an emotional chord with its intended audience: seniors. Its stark, poignant piano music sets an appropriate tone. It is worth noting that the intro image of Dan Maffei shows him sitting with his arm around a senior.

Cons: This ad is hard to poke holes in, provided the information conveyed is accurate. Even if it isn’t, however, the testimonial comes across as credible enough to suspend the viewer’s disbelief.

Expert Opinion: “While it appears that the ad does a good job of having genuine testimonial from a concerned senior from the district, what they fail to disclose is that Peggy Chase is a Democratic leader in the City of Syracuse. So while the ad has the potential to be effective, it now runs the risk of losing credibility if viewers were to learn that she’s not your average concerned senior off the street. The use of light casts an uncomfortable view of the ad—while some may see it as a production flaw, it’s likely intentioned to add to the viewer’s uneasiness about Buerkle and her stance on Medicare.”
Lynn Krogh, political consultant, The Casale Group


“Anymore”

Candidate: Maggie Brooks
Produced by: DMM Media (Alexandria, VA.)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: After 26 years in Washington, D.C., Louise Slaughter has changed.

Pros: Oh, what a debt campaign attack ads owe to horror movies! The disconcerting flashes, the haunting music, even the blood-red ectoplasmic 7. And the irony of the name Slaughter. Get it? She’s killing us. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Cons: This spot is rather boilerplate as far as attack ads go. Terrible black-and-white photos of the opponent, menacing statistics and eerie music contrast with the vibrant, cheery color image of Brooks at the outset of the ad. Technically the ad is fine, but it has no memorable elements.

Expert Opinion: “The ad might be effective if it was directed at a less well-known, less well-established incumbent, but Louise Slaughter enjoys high favorable ratings in her district, which serve to inoculate her from the attack. The Brooks campaign clearly understands that voters do not like to be told that they have been wrong in electing someone they know and like, which is why the introduction claims that Rep. Slaughter has changed.”
Evan Stavisky, partner, The Parkside Group

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