Cover politics long enough and those 30-second ads tend to meld together. They rarely demand your attention because they are so relentlessly repetitive.
There’s the bio ad that features the candidate with his or her unbelievably healthy and happy family. There’s a candidate talking at a town hall with audience members sitting in rapt attention.
There’s the “I’m unfairly under attack” spot. The “our values are under attack” ads. The ads that focus on abortion or guns or Social Security or Wall Street banks, all under the guise that the world as we know it faces yet another catastrophic threat unless, of course, voters elect the right person.
This week, Elizabeth Wilner writes about this in the Cook Political Report, where she cited what she called the “relentless sameness and lameness” of most political spots. Her point: No wonder so many people are questioning whether TV ads still work. In a year when voters are seeking something authentic in their politicians, ad makers around the country appear to be phoning it in.
Missouri’s budding GOP race for governor is very much a case in point — with one glaring exception. The four candidates have just released their first rounds of ads, and they are for the most part very much of the same ol’, same ol’ variety.
Peter Kinder, the three-term lieutenant governor, looks straight at the camera and declares that “Missouri’s values are under attack” and “Enough is enough. We must fight back.”
An ad from businessman John Brunner proclaims that “he’s the only candidate” who can’t be bought. “A Marine, Brunner’s a good man, an honest man of faith and family who shares our values.”
You’ve heard that one before too.
Catherine Hanaway, the former House speaker and federal prosecutor, also touts values: “Midwestern values. Faith in God. Family. A hard day’s work. Telling the truth. As a mom, I worry about our values.”
No offense, but these ads are utterly forgettable when the main objective should be standing out from the pack.
Enter the fourth candidate, Eric Greitens, with an ad that, if not unique, certainly falls into the memorable category. (Here I am writing about it.)
I’ve never seen anything like it, though colleague Jason Hancock notes the new Greitens ad is reminiscent of a 2010 Joe Manchin spot. Manchin was running for a U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia and was seen loading a rifle in slow motion, declaring that he’ll take on Washington, then firing at a target, which happens to be the cap and trade bill.
A former Navy SEAL, Greitens ups the ante. He’s seen in a dark brown T-shirt with what an aide describes as an M4 rifle slung over his shoulder. It’s the same weapon Greitens is said to have used in Iraq.
He’s no career politician, Greitens declares. He promises to take “dead aim at politics as usual.” With that, he unshoulders the rifle, kneels and uncorks a rapid-fire round of shots at an unseen target.
An explosion and a spectacular geyser of fire ensues.
“If you’re ready for a conservative outsider, I’m ready to fire away,” Greitens declares.
An aide insists the sequence was captured in one take.
Wow. Silly? Maybe. Laughable? I’ll buy that. Memorable? I’ll buy that too, and that’s the point. Greitens, who almost certainly has the lowest name identification of the group, wants to break free from his rivals. He’ll undoubtedly follow up with more traditional ads outlining his positions.
By then, he may have your attention.
Or have sunk his chances completely.