Candidate: Matt Doheny
Produced by: Greener and Hook (Arlington, Va.)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: A group of seniors (including Matt Doheny’s mother, Kay) hit back at Rep. Bill Owens for “spreading lies” about his stance on Medicare and Social Security.
Pros: The seniors in this ad come across as credible nonactors and give an emotional, personal touch to Doheny’s defense. The use by Republican candidates of their parents to defend against Democrats’ charges that the GOP intends to eviscerate Medicare has become something of a motif this election season with Rep. Chris Gibson also enlisting his mom in a television spot and Rep. Nan Hayworth deploying not one but both of her parents to declare the accusations against her to be “rubbish.”
Cons: This “slice-of-life” coffee shop conversation is obviously staged and stilted, but the seniors sell the lines effectively enough so as not to call attention to the scenario.
Expert Opinion: “Solid work. Republican congressional candidates—both challengers and incumbents—start off at a deficit on the question of ‘Who do you trust more to protect Social Security and Medicare?’ And the DCCC has been hammering Doheny for saying the Ryan plan ‘doesn’t go far enough.’ So playing defense in a swing district like this is essential for Doheny. His mom serves him well. She may not be as memorable as, say, Al D’Amato’s mom, but she is sympathetic and credible. I’m skeptical that the attack on Owens for “cut[ting] Medicare” will do much damage because of the widespread debunking of this Republican talking point, but it at least muddies the waters.”
—Alex Navarro-McKay, managing director, BerlinRosen
“Real Seniors of the Hudson Valley”
Candidate: Julian Schreibman
Produced by: The Campaign Group, Inc. (Philadelphia)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: Seniors address Rep. Chris Gibson directly, accusing him of attacking Schreibman on Medicare when it is actually Gibson “who voted to gut” the program.
Pros: Another variation on the theme of seniors affirming a candidate’s credibility on Medicare, this ad takes a more confrontational approach than the Doheny ad. The line to Gibson, “Why would you hurt us?” is particularly striking. In general, this ad cleaves to the principle that the best defense is a good offense—an old adage, but one that is more often than not efficacious in politics.
Cons: With Gibson running a thematically similar spot to defend his record on Medicare, and the rash of comparable ads this season from other candidates, this ad risks getting lost in the mix—and merely making both candidates’ stance on Medicare murky in voters’ minds rather than scoring a hit. Running as the challenger, Schreibman can’t afford just to battle this important issue to a draw.
Expert Opinion: “The ad is a bit gimmicky, and could have driven the point home in a more serious manner. Moreover, it doesn’t address the biggest concern in the district. According to the last Siena poll, jobs were the number one issue at 35%, followed by [the] federal budget deficit at 26%. Health care came in a distant third place at 12%. It should also be noted [that] 55% of the sample were over the age of 55. The number one rule in advertising is to know your audience and target your message accordingly. Direct mail to seniors would have been more effective.”
—Susan Del Percio, founder of Susan Del Percio Strategies
Candidate: Ann Marie Buerkle
Produced by: Mooney Marketing Group (Syracuse, N.Y.)
Length: 30 seconds
Description: Rep. Buerkle pushes back at Dan Maffei’s pair of ads linking Buerkle with Missouri Rep. Todd Akin and the “legitimate rape” controversy.
Pros: Referencing her four daughters and emphasizing her background in counseling rape and domestic violence victims, Buerkle’s direct defense to the viewer comes across as passionate and sincere. She effectively plays up the particular umbrage she takes as a woman to have been attacked on this issue, which helps her counterpunch that “victims of sexual assault should never be used for political gain” land more convincingly.
Cons: In the picture of Dan Maffei meant to make him look bad at the beginning of the ad, his wedding ring is prominently visible, an odd choice given that the ad is meant to portray Maffei as insensitive to women.
Expert Opinion: “The biggest takeaway from this ad is that the Maffei–Buerkle race is focused on undecided women voters, which they clearly both see as crucial to victory. But instead of jobs and the economy, voters in NY-24 are subjected to this bickering, which helps neither campaign. Buerkle speaking to the camera is the right approach to this rebuttal, but using all the traditional ‘Here’s the truth’ techniques render the effort ineffective. The awkward cutout of Maffei, smoke-screen background behind the TV and Buerkle on a white slate all reek of the negative ads voters hate—the same ads Buerkle is trying to tie Maffei to.”
—Nicole Gill, vice president, SKDKnickerbocker