PURPOSE OF COMMERCIAL: I think Ballard would have been better advised to do a straight biographical piece as his first television commercial. Ballard's background, or at least how it can be presented, is one of his strengths. Yet, the commercial glossed over his bio to dive right into issues. (I did note though that it took just six seconds for Ballard to mention his Marine background.) The campaign shouldn't be assuming voters know Ballard. Because of the unusual nature of the 2007 campaign, many people still don't know who Ballard is.
AUDIO: The decision to use Ballard's voice in this type of commercial is baffling. There is a place for candidates to be speaking on their commercials. For example, when a candidate is talking about a specific issue and seeking to convey sincerity. In that case, a candidate talking to the camera is a good idea. But a piece like this should have used a professional voice over artist. While Ballard's voice isn't bad, it just doesn't begin to compare to a professional. If you don't think so, simply close your eyes and listen to Ballard's spot then listen to Kennedy's which used a professional to do the audio.
VIDEO: In the first 25 seconds of the Ballard commercial, I count 27 different screen shots. The viewers are jerked from one image to another, sort of like someone sitting on a couch using a remote control to quickly flip through the channels. The commercial seems put together with the strategy of getting as many images as possible into the 30 second commercial.
Being pummelled with images might work with very young voters (though I have my doubts), but that approach is likely to leave middle-aged and older voters nauseous or with a migraine. I have to wonder if the Ballard media consultant sought feedback before trotting out the spot. It could be the Ballard people were caught by surprise when Kennedy announced she was going on the air and they rushed to put out this commercial.
ISSUES: Ballard's issues outlined in the commercial are:
- Fiscal Responsibility
- Lower Taxes
- Stronger Neighborhoods
- Crime is (Going) down
Lower Taxes: When it comes to "lower taxes," that's a terrible issue for Ballard because it is demonstrably false. By making that claim, Ballard is setting the ball on the tee for Marion County Democratic Chairman Ed Treacy. Undoubtedly Treacy will run a commercial that documents Ballard's 100 plus tax and fee increases and his broken promises with regard to property taxes and the county option income tax. I can see the commercial now. It features Ballard talking during the 2007 campaign, making a promise about taxes. The video freezes on an unflattering view of the Mayor as 100 plus tax and fee increases supported by the Mayor scroll across the screen.
Stronger Neighborhoods: Like "fiscal responsibility," the issue of "stronger neighborhoods" is a vague one. What does it mean? There is an awful lot of evidence out there that Ballard's been focused on downtown and not the neighborhoods. While Ballard can counter that some with the infrastructure spending in the City, it is at best a wishy-washy issue that is hard to package for voters.
Crime is (Going) Down: "Going" is in parenthesis because if you listen closely Ballard deviated from the words that appeared on the screen. Ballard added "going" using such a tone to suggest concern people wouldn't actually believe the crime rate is down. That's exactly why it is not a good issue for Ballard. Crime is tied to people's perceptions, not dry statistics. If people perceive crime is a problem in the City, which they do, all the statistics in the world saying otherwise doesn't matter.
CLOSING: The best part of the commercial was the last five seconds which slows down to just two images. The shot of Ballard talking to the camera is the best part of the commercial. However, the slogan, "We've made a lot of progress, but we're not done yet, but we're well on our way" is a mouthful and grammatically clumsy. The final image of Ballard walking with staff is good precisely because, unlike the 27 images in the first 25 seconds, it is not rushed.