The mudslinging campaign ad might have met its match

If nothing else, maybe the mid-term elections will spell the end of the cliche political ad, in which some candidate puts on some flannel, chews on a little straw, surrounds him/herself with the kids and utters a bunch of cliches off bumper stickers.

Really, since Paul Wellstone and Jesse Ventura (both iconic ads produced by the same ad agency), when’s the last time there was a memorable political ad around here that you’d want to drop what you’re doing to watch?

AdFreak writes today that “something is changing” in political ads, documenting the political firm, WIN, which has already produced ads for candidates that led to surprising wins.

The latest client is actor Cynthia Nixon, who announced yesterday she’s running for governor of New York.

This, AdFreak says, is a new trend toward more personal narratives. WIN’s first ad was for Randy Bryce, who’s running for Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin congressional seat.

Wisconsin, in fact, will provide the test of whether the new ad style will stick. Last week, Kelda Roys unveiled this spot for her gubernatorial campaign. She makes her “elevator speech” while she breastfeeds.

“It’s refreshing to see work that hits close to home and doesn’t rely on fear or mudslinging,” AdFreak says.

  • MrE85

    Not a single Republican among the five campaigns profiled here. Can anyone point to a foot soldier of the GOP who is running a kinder, gentler campaign?

    Since Reagan’s “Morning in America,” that is.

  • MrE85

    Political advertising will start changing when those who go negative start losing, and so far, that hasn’t been the case. While Wellstone and Ventura both won upset victories, I would say Nixon, Bryce and Roys are all longshots.

    Here’s what one article had to say about the breastfeeding candidate:
    .
    “A March 5 Marquette University Law School Poll showed 92 percent of voters didn’t know much about Roys, who is one of nine candidates seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Wisconsin. Roys scored the worst of the candidates when Democrats were asked for whom they’d vote in the primary, coming in with zero percent support.”

    • Veronica

      Oof. The “breastfeeding candidate.”

      That stings.

      Welcoming people with kids into the government is critical to a representative democracy. Welcoming a mom who, yes, has a baby to feed is just going to have to happen. That’s all she was doing—feeding her baby. How she was doing it has nothing to do with how fit she is to be a governor, so that is not an acceptable takeaway.

      I have no patience for anyone who demeans or slights working mothers, nor should we tolerate the misogyny inherent in keeping kids out of the workplace.

      Related: you should hear about the hoops Sen. Duckworth is having to jump through just to do her job. http://thewestwingweekly.com/episodes/417

      • Mike

        I like what she has to say about regulation of potentially dangerous chemicals, but here’s the thing: putting a shot of breastfeeding a child into an ad politicizes breastfeeding by definition. Therefore, it can be criticized, ridiculed – or lauded – as much as any other political statement.

        My own impression of the ad is that the inclusion of breastfeeding came across as clumsy, awkward, and hamfisted. Really not necessary, and rather ridiculous, actually.

        • Veronica

          Does it though? I don’t think it does, any more than anything else people choose to include in their political ads.

          It’s feeding a child, plain and simple. What if they included footage showing her feeding a child Cheerios? Would that be a “political statement”? Nope.

          She is a mom with a small child taking care of her baby. How she is doing that might make you feel squicked out, but that’s not her problem.

          • Mike

            It’s a transparently political statement that says, “Vote for me. I’m a wholesome mom.” That’s the oldest type of politics, just updated a bit for the tastes of 21st century liberals.

            I’m not going to vote for anyone based on their identity or their family relationships (or lack thereof). I base my vote on their positions on the issues, their track record on those issues, and whether or not I think they would be effective in office. But political races are rarely won on the merits, as your comments attest.

          • Sure, but there aren’t usually a lot of issues in political ads. At this stage of the game, the goal is to make a connection with a voter and get some name identity.

          • Veronica

            Oh, brother.

            My takeaway was that she is running after serving her constituents in the state legislature, and that she isn’t afraid of talking to the people she represents—unlike Other elected officials.

          • Mike

            It’s a political ad. Everything in it is calculated to have an effect on the voters. To argue anything else is illogical.

          • That’s all advertising, of course.

          • Mike

            Thus it’s perfectly acceptable to lampoon her breastfeeding within the context of the ad, because she’s using what she believes makes her appear wholesome to get elected. It’s all just politics.

            It’s analogous to the politicians who want to use their religion as a reason you should vote for them. No thanks.

          • Of course, the dirty little secret is while people say they want issues and facts in political campaigns, they don’t. They’ve more than proven that over decades.

          • Mike

            Certainly, and that’s just part of human nature. It’s common to both sides of the political spectrum and probably everywhere in between. But personally, I detest the identity politics that’s practiced openly on both the left and the right these days. It’s a bad time to be an issue-focused voter.

          • I think it’s relatively complicated and gets into human psychology. People want someone that they think can identify with their lives; we certainly learned that much from the Trump campaign (even if it was BS, a guy who says blue-collar like things was able to sell himself as a blue collar guy). But we saw that as long ago as the first debate (Hibbing or Brainerd, I forget which) when jesse Ventura was allowed into the first debate with Coleman and Humphrey.

            There’s an argument, of course, about whether any of this is an effective way to judge or not, of course, but one of the tests people use wth their candidates or not is whether they can be trusted.

            I STILL think that people will vote for a candidate with whom they disagree on several issues IF they believe they are being talked to honestly and authentically. I think what’s what we’re seeing in the new advertising is an attempt to reach that.

            I doubt very much that this will be the sum and substance of a campaign that still has a long way to go, but it’s a pretty typical to start.

          • Mike

            Practically speaking, we all have to vote for candidates with whom we disagree on several issues – unless one is a mindless fanboy/girl of a particular politician or party, and they unfortunately exist.

            Politics is always a bit of smoke and mirrors, even when a candidate clearly takes positions and/or has a record on positions that one agrees with. Charisma, however defined, is the X factor, and is often what separates the successful ones from the failures.

            Trump and Ventura both had that. They also conveniently had little to no track record in government to criticize.

            Politicians will do almost anything to increase their name recognition. In the case of Roys, breastfeeding is her publicity stunt. That’s fine, since politics should have at least some degree of entertainment value. But it’s still just a stunt.

          • BJ

            It’s been proven that they will vote for an candidate they know, even if they disagree with them on a lot of issues. If they don’t know the other candidate. And most people don’t know the other candidate.

            Most candidates forgot that dislike of the other person doesn’t mean support for them.

          • Bridget L.

            It grabbed your attention and you’re talking about her so regardless of how you feel about the “ad” you are now engaging in the conversation. Job done I say.

          • Rob

            Way overgeneralized.

          • Veronica

            “Lampoon breastfeeding”

            That phrase makes me nauseous. Oy vey.

          • Rob

            You sound like one of those guys who must not have been breastfed when you were a baby.

          • Mike

            Right. Breastfeeding is always sacred, even when it’s being exploited to get votes. To think otherwise is to incur ad hominem comments.

            Was Nixon using his kids and his dog cynically in his Checkers speech? Or should we have swooned at his reverence for his family?

          • Lindsey

            Well, they didn’t make him give the dog back now, did they?

            I think the issue is that you are attacking breastfeeding in your first statement, rather than saying the more coherent arguments that you make in later comments.

          • Rob

            Who said it was sacred? It’s merely a natural process, so why folks are getting worked up about it is beyond me.

            Nixon a cynic? Hard to believe

          • Kellpa07

            Reading all of your comments, it doesn’t seem that Mike is the one worked up about it. He notes (correctly in my view, but you may disagree) that the decision to include the feeding is a political calculation. How is that “distressed” about breastfeeding?

          • Rob

            If it is a political calculation, here’s me yawning. And if pushing back on the folks who are worked up about seeing a politician breastfeeding is the same as getting worked up about it, then you’ve caught me out.

          • Kellpa07

            I just don’t see who is worked up about breast feeding. The only question is whether it’s effective. No one is saying best feeding is bad, no one is saying it shouldn’t be shown. It’s just a discussion about whether it’s an effective ad.

            Arguing that it might not be effective is not the same thing as saying breast feeding is not fit for public consumption. You’re arguing against a strawman.

            Nice to see you’re in the pro breast feeding camp though.

          • Kellpa07

            Everything a candidate chooses to put in an ad is put there for a reason, and is political, from the clothing they wear, to the location or setting of the ad to the activities shown in the ad. Everything in a political ad is political.

          • Veronica

            nope. Not going to agree.

        • Rob

          I just don’t fathom why dudes get so distressed to see a woman breastfeeding her baby. I thought this was a way cool ad.

      • MrE85

        I’ve heard of Senator Duckworth’s tribulations. Time to shake up the Old Boys Club.

    • Rob

      Roy Moore and Saccone lost.

      • MrE85

        Yes, but Moore was toxic and Saccone was lackluster. More proof that selecting the best candidate for the district is more important than any ad. And yet, the voters can still surprise us. There is a MN House race i know of that will leave a lot a people surprised, if it goes the way I think it will.

        • Rob

          There have been tons of times throughout our political history when the most craptastic candidate wins. Sometimes the most craptastic candidate even wins the highest office in the land.

  • Gary F

    Or… the guy who just won in Pennsylvania. What political party was he? He’s shooting an AR15!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BnOHydNcrM

  • Gary F

    Do you really think that’s going to happen with who runs against Jason Lewis? Eric Paulson?

    • The School of Lee Atwater ain’t dead yet.

    • Chris

      No kidding. I have no doubt that outiside Koch-Mercer money will be bankrolling MS-13 adds against Lewis and Paulsen’s opponents. Didn’t work for Gillespe or Saccone though.

  • BJ

    Most of these are terrible advertising.

    bottle and baby candidate.

    steel worker candidate.

    The single greatest asset for getting elected is name identification. None of these did that.

    Well the ‘body’ one came the closest, and probably was the best. His nick name was alluded to the whole time. His name ID was pretty high so that ad played off it and reinforced that he wasn’t just a personality and had other traits and things that voters look for (kids, stable marriage, military service) all while alluding to his nick name.

    It ‘costs’ a lot to get 50% of potential voters to even know who you are. All of these (except Jesse and Cynthia because they already had high name ID) failed to do that. In the day of skipping TV ads and reduced radio listeners this is a bad move.

    • I don’t think Cynthia Nixon is going to have to worry too much about name recognition since she’s got a leg up on face recognition.

      • BJ

        She doesn’t reinforce her ‘brand’ in the ad, but like I pointed out she does have a high name ID.

        I don’t have my numbers in front of me but ‘normal’ candidates, without high name ID before hand, need to spend about 2 times that of incumbents just to get equal name ID. Using your first big advertising in a way that doesn’t add to your name ID is just bad use of funds.

        • Yeah, but you come from the business and you’re using a tried and true playbook, for sure. Do we KNOW that these ads won’t work? Have we seen enough of ads like this to know they won’t?

          • BJ

            Positive ads work. Story ads work.

            Cost is the key factor.

            Let’s say it costs $100 to get first 50% of people to know who I am. And the area has 700,000 people.

            I then need to appeal to them. Let’s say I can get half of those to vote for me.

            The incumbent has, without spending a penny, 65% name ID and over 50 of those have already voted for them.

            It’s hard to convince someone to change their mind and vote for someone else without saying something bad about that person.

  • NTD

    Political ads that are different than the norm are memorable. The name recognition will build as you see the ad over and over again or if you’re grabbed by its message the first time seeing it. And you get free PR when media picks up it or its shared on social media. The Kelda Roys ad aligns herself towards moms and young families. I bet breastfeeding moms are sharing the ad online. Millennials, who are starting their families, are a larger population than boomers, so older white man aren’t the target for her ad. And as for Randy Bryce, all you need to know is he’s your average hardworking Joe, just like the folks in his district he’s hoping to serve, unlike Ryan who is a Washington insider.

  • MrE85