MyDD Accountability Adwatch: John Courage

Firedoglake is doing an adwatch on netroots candidate John Courage.  Lojo has done one on Phil Angelides (media consultant Phil Carrick) and Bob Fertik has done an adwatch on his own ImpeachPAC ad.  That's neat, an organization putting up their own ad.

Ok, so here's the Courage ad, produced as an in-kind contribution by Margie Becker and Mike Nicholson".

What do you think, keeping the accountability memo in mind?

My initial thoughts are that the ad packs much more punch than the Darcy Burner ad.  Courage puts up Iraq as a core theme, and focuses on the lack of veterans care rather than putting the poor wartime leadership front and center.  The narrative flow is good, and there's new information in the ad.  

The one downside is that Courage blames 'politicians in Washington' instead of 'Republicans in Washington', and blames 'Congress' instead of 'Republican-led Congress'.  Remember, part of the data from the CA-50 accountability memo is that even 40% of Republican base voters believe that Democrats will hold Bush accountable, and in Courage's district (which just had a bunch of GOP voters added), those are the voters he needs.

Courage's ad is missing simple word, but a key one.  If candidates won't name names, voters won't trust them, just as they did not trust Busby's credibility when she said she wanted to put a strong ethics package through Congress.

What do you think?

And as always, if you want to do your own adwatch, here are instructions.

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Phil Angelides -- No Wonder

Phil Carrick (of Morris, Carrick and Guma) is Phil Angelides' Media Consultant and he should be fired immediately.  Check out this spot*

The ad looks like a 1970 Aaron Spelling production.  Crazy weird, airy (cheap stock) music.  And, most importantly, they make their opponent -- Arnold Schwarzenegger! -- seem boring. I guess they're showing him on a motorcycle to remind people of his crash, but c'mon.  They've got the best material in the country and they come up with this.

And, check out the issue vomitorium at the end -- they throw every up possible issue line on you.  This is one of my (many) pet peeves with political advertising.  They're just throwing up a series of well focus group tested lines at the viewer thinking -- that like in a group where you PAY people to listen -- people will still be watching at the end of terrible spot to hear it.  Memo to Carrick: they don't.  

ImpeachPAC's "Lie and Die" Ad

ImpeachPAC ran this ad as an independent expenditure campaign one week before the August primary. Here is the YouTube and here is the text. Our ad was initially censored by Comcast, but thanks to pressure from activists the ad finally ran on Comcast and NECN.

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Make Your Own Adwatch

We've added a blogroll to the right that lists MyDD projects.  I'd like to highlight one specifically that you can participate in.  It's called the MyDD adwatch project, and the goal is to highlight both good and bad TV ads with an eye towards encouraging a good strong progressive message focusing on accountability.  Candidates spend millions and millions every cycle on ad spending, and paid media is the primary message that most voters get from Democrats.  It's our brand.  So like it or not, their ads are our ads.  Since we also fund candidates to run these ads, it makes some sense to keep an eye on them.

Anyway, if we can criticize the ads our candidates use, hopefully we can provide them with some feedback so they know what's working and what isn't around the country, a sharing of best practices through the blogs.  Lots of MyDDers and blog readers know media extremely well; many are in marketing and advertising, and it would be a shame to waste all that talent.

Working on the MyDD adwatch program isn't hard.  If you don't have a lot of time, just go to an existing adwatch diary, read the analysis, and leave a comment.  Feedback is always good.  If you want to spend a bit more time and highlight something you find exceptionally good or bad, here are the four steps to really stepping up nice and big.

1) FIND: a Congressional candidate or issue group in whom you have some interest, or just pick one at random, and download an ad from their site.  

2) UPLOAD the ad to youtube or flickr (if it's print or a banner ad).

3) WRITE a diary on MyDD and tag it with the name of the Congressional candidate, his/her opponent, the district, and 'adwatch'.  If it's an issue group, tag it with the group name.  Make sure to criticize the ad effectively and honestly, with clear actionable advice.  I recommend the accountability memo all of us prepared and funded, but if you don't choose that framework you should have some other framework in mind.  This isn't just an opportunity to bash ads we don't like or compliment candidates we want to promote, it is a forum for a real discussion of narrative and messaging.  

4) REVIEW other adwatch diaries.  If you tag your diary as  'adwatch', it will be automatically added to the MyDD Adwatch Project series on the right.  Please be a good community member and discuss the observations other people have made, or just read them and learn about political advertising so your comments can be more informed.

I'm excited about this project.  TV advertising isn't my specialty, but it's something that we in the blogs need to recognize has a massive impact on our politics.  This is one way to really begin the discussion and allow progressive professionals from outside of the political field to have an impact.  I also hope that we can get some media buyers from both the political and commercial worlds coming into the blogs to help teach us more about this important area.

Thoughts and comments are most welcome.

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McMahon, Squier & Associates Produced the Burner Ad

Ok, this is interesting.  Darcy Burner's bio spot I criticized this morning was produced by McMahon, Squier & Associates (via the subscription only Hotline), the people who brought you Howard Dean's 2004 TV spots that generated so much goodwill with everyone.

The firm is run by all around nice guy and progressive champion Steve McMahon.  Aside from working for progressive powerhouses know as the tobacco and the pharmaceutical industries, McMahon made a a great impression on Markos and Jerome when they worked for Dean.  I wonder what this super-advertising maven did to charm the guys who wrote Crashing the Gates.

In my four years in politics, I haven't met a bigger asshole, a more unsavory character than McMahon. When we met, his first words out of his mouth were literally, "If you get us more clients, we'll give you guys a percentage." No "hello", or "nice to meet you", or "Nice day, huh?" No, it was, "If you get us more clients, we'll give you guys a percentage." No person was more excited at the money raised by the Dean campaign than him -- not because he believed in Dean or the cause, but because he saw dollar signs from the percentages he was pocketting by handling Dean's media.


For example, McMahon worked on independent expenditure ads on behalf of JEB BUSH in 2002 (bashing Democratic candidate Bill McBride) at the same time he was gearing up his work for Howard Dean's presidential bid.

When I talk about consultants who are in the business to make money and could care less about winning or the cause or the movement, McMahon is Exhibit A. All hesitations I've ever had about Dean stem from the fact that he continues to associate himself closely with this guy -- a man so unprincipled that he has worked for big pharma against progressive principles and on behalf of Jeb Bush.

It's obvious that Darcy Burner is a great candidate who feels passionately about Iraq.  Just listen to this excellent podcast from Doublespeak.  She's articulate, powerful, intelligent, and progressive.  She knows the politics, she has a great story, and will be a fantastic Congresswoman.  I'm really blown away by her commitment to public service and her authenticity as a communicator.  She's running for Congress because of her three year old son, and she wants Congresspeople who are willing to ask the hard questions.

And yet, Steve McMahon's firm has produced a horrible ad that is out of sync with the incredible raw material they have to work with.  The conflicts of interest in his work with corporate and GOP clients are obvious, and explain the 'affordable health care' bland messaging.  

What the hell is going on?  Who recommended that she work with this firm?  She's a first time candidate whose career has been spent at Microsoft, so it's not like she knows these people.  Someone got her to hire this firm.  Who was it?  And just what is going on?  An introductory bio spot that doesn't say she is a DEMOCRAT in a district that John Kerry WON?  Unbelievable.

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