"They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way!" - The Untouchables
"The Untouchables" was one of my favorite movies in High School. I have no idea if it still holds up, but I sure did love it, and it had more than its share of memorable lines.
I quoted the line above as a lead into the battle for Illinois Senate. (I know Illinois is not only Chicago, but it's a great quote and relevant, so bear with me.)
A couple of months ago, it seemed that Alexis Ginnoulias' campaign was going down because of the failure of his family's bank, I wrote about his ad coming out of that scandal here. Well, now it appears that Mark Kirk's campaign has hit a seemingly insurmountable scandal.
After a month of dodging and hiding, Kirk has decided to try and put the heat back on his opponent with two ads:
I like how the BP add touts Kirk's environmental record, it's unexpected so it gets my attention. I'm not so taken with the attack on Giannoulias. It's a little all over the place, an aide worked for BP and he's for higher energy taxes? The fact that the narrator is trying make some link for me doesn't really help, if you don't feel or see the link for yourself if you have to be told ("Big differences on the environment and taxes") it loses its power.
The second ad is more of the same, it's hiting Giannoulias for being only 34, then hitting him for loans to mobsters, then losing money in the College fund as treasurer, then he supports higher taxes for more spending. It's a lot to pack into one ad, and while they're supposed to be linked thematically (you can't trust him with your money), I'm still trying to take in the information as the next item comes up, and in the end, I don't really get any of it either emotionally or intellectually.
The last line bothers me too, "Alexi Giannoulias, trust him with your money..." It's supposed to be a question, but the read doesn't quite pull it off, and it feels awkward -- I think they ran out of time for the narrator to either ask the question or give the line the inflection it needed.
I had a friend who worked in commercial advertising who always wondered why political ads had so much crap pilled into them. This is a perfect example of that approach, "Hey, let's pull all the lines that polled well against Giannoulias." I think this ad and the previous one would have been better off with a less is more approach.
The overall sense with two ads, is that the Kirk campaign is wildly throwing haymakers trying to counter punch it's way out of the corner, instead of using a timed timed Jab that catches the other campaign off balance. If I was working on the Kirk campaign, I would worry this approach would come off as desperate, fighting from weakness and fear instead of confidence and strength. I also wonder if Kirk wouldn't have been better off facing the elephant in the room, apologizing on the air, and turning that apology into his core message somehow.
The Giannoulias folks obviously were expecting an attack because 24 hours after Kirk's attack they released their own attack on Kirk:
I think their approach is interesting: There's no narrator, just the disembodied voice of newscasters, reporting and discussing Kirk's lies and misrepresentations (and Kirk himself uttering them). It's entirely focused on that one issue, and obviously the creators thought enough of the attack to let the ad run one minute. Compare this to the sixty seconds (over two ads) of the Kirk attacks.... I think the difference is clear. I'm not sure I could repeat any individual Kirk misrepresentation, but I think the overall impression, that Kirk has repeatedly said things he knows to be untrue, sticks with me. While on the other side, I'm not sure if any of his attacks stays with me cleanly (frankly the thing I remember most is that Giannoulias is 34, which I think makes him accomplished in my eyes, not too young).
My one quibble is the final line, "Typical Washington Politician," feels like too much of a cliche to describe this situation, kind of a stretch as well. I might have ended with all the quotes on the screen, and let the viewer make their own conclusion.
Still I think the lesson for today is as hard as it is to cut good stuff from an ad, less is often more.
In my opinion, Kirk brought a knife to a gunfight, a definite no-no. This round goes to Giannoulias.