by Matt Stoller, Mon Aug 21, 2006 at 09:00:49 AM EDT
Ok, so we spent a bunch of time going over the California 50th results, and have come up with a set of themes for candidates to use. Now it's time to apply what we learned.
We'll start with an ad from netroots candidate Darcy Burner, one of my personal favorites and a wonderful candidate in Washington state (this podcast is a good introduction to the candidate). This is her first commercial, a bio spot:
The spot is aspirational, and focuses on Burner's own life. She grew up in military towns with parents who struggled to make ends meet, and then put herself through school, met success at Microsoft, and married a military veteran. Her priorities are to improve education, make health care affordable, protect Social Security, and keep our promises to troops and veterans. The spot finishes with a direct appeal from Darcy to the voters, saying that the cost of raising a family is increasing and politicians in Washington are listening only to special interests. We need to change the direction of this country by putting our priorities first.
So that's the ad.
Notice anything missing? I-R-A-Q.
Notice anything else missing? Well if you saw this ad, you wouldn't know whether Darcy is a Democrat or a Republican. (That is a failure to take advantage of the 'Republicans Control Congress' message, which is that when voters know who controls Congress, they vote for the other party.)
Notice anything else missing? Bush.
In other words, this ad is a complete failure. Not only does it not mention the major issue in the country, Iraq, it doesn't mention our wildly unpopular President, and it doesn't mention the Republican brand, which is associated with failure in Iraq and a lack of accountability. I could discuss more ephemeral and subjective problems, like the lack of a narrative arc that shows why voters should trust an upper middle class techie, the lack of an explanation for why she decided to run, the use of horrifically vague and loose DLC-phrases like 'make health care affordable' and 'improving education to create opportunity' (what does that even mean?), but we'll start with basics.
The fact that Darcy grew up near the military and married a veteran is not a substitute for having a position on Iraq. The fact that Darcy succeeded and is a nice person doesn't qualify her for Congress. One way to put this into a bio spot would be to put all the nice fluffy 'here's who I am' stuff in the first 10-20 seconds, and then pivot to the reason she's running for Congress, which is that her brother is/was in Iraq, and the least Congress can do is hold Bush accountable so he can't screw it up anymore. Her Congressman won't do that, so I will... The script would have to be tightened and shaped for her persona, but you get the content idea.
Her ad is ironic, because accountability is a theme of Darcy's campaign. Her first item on the issues page is Darcy will hold the Bush Administration accountable on Iraq. And on the contrast page, we have this great messaging:
Darcy Burner supports holding the Bush administration accountable by demanding a plan to secure Iraq without an indefinite commitment of US troops....
Reichert supports the President on the Iraq War and has said he would back the invasion again, even with the information now showing there were no weapons of mass destruction... He opposes efforts to hold the administration accountable for presenting a plan for success.
I'm really excited about Burner's campaign, and think she'll do exceptionally well. This blog post is a criticism of her first advertisement, not her campaign, and I'm just one person. What do you think? Is this ad good? Am I being too harsh? And if you have advertising or marketing experience, please preface your comment with that.