Two advertisements were recently released by IL-5 candidates in their bid to win the Democratic primary. Interestingly, both candidates’ messages – overt and subliminal – say a lot about the candidates themselves.
First, let’s start with Charlie Wheelan. His latest political ad uses animation in an effort to really grab peoples’ attentions. That’s a good strategy because this elections’ ads thus far have been very typical of campaign ads. However, Wheelan has shown a willingness to take risks in his ads by pushing creativity, trying to be interesting and even seeming a little strange – in order to grab voters’ attention and hopefully their support. His first two ads, “Underwater” and “Upside Down” created some nice buzz in the local and national blogosphere.
Now, Wheelan’s campaign has taken political communications creativity a step further with a political animated short released yesterday via Facebook and Twitter and posted on the campaign website. Right now the campaign is only showing the trailer, with the hope of creating enough interest to draw people to a campaign event where the entire three-minute video will be aired.
The ad was produced by Bill Hillman’s agency, North Woods, responsible for Wheelan’s first two TV ads. The ad’s purpose though is definitely different than other political ads we’ve seen in this campaign. It’s unclear at the moment if a 30-second spot will be edited for a TV ad buy, meant to convince undecided voters in favor of Mr. Wheelan. Instead, the ad is hoped to be an online viral success, drawing people to Wheelan’s website who are already Wheelan supporters or semi-supporters. The campaign staff noted in an email that Wheelan’s website is much deeper in policy positions than his competitors and are confident that people who spend time on the site are sold on Wheelan’s depth.
I give kudos to Wheelan’s campaign for trying something daring. Video goes viral because the production is so creative, smart, funny or shocking. For a political campaign ad, Wheelan’s Dark Knight is solid (though a somewhat inaccurate, when at the outset the animated Blagojevich says that the Senate seat and Emanuel’s seat were up for sale. It was really only the Senate seat. Not that I defend Blago or anything. Just for being informationally accurate.) Wheelan is really shooting for the best viral outcome too in public affairs – offline action. I’ve said for a long time now that political social media and viral efforts are the most effective when offline actions follow.
Meanwhile, John Fritchey’s latest direct mail advertisement hearkens back to his campaign messages as a reformer who has a history of leading sensible legislation.
However, I can’t get over the irony inherent in the ad. Fritchey uses the subject of honesty – admitting he puts ketchup on hot dogs – and that sort of straight talk is what is needed in Congress. Using hot dogs, the ultimate sausage product, is ironic (and may piss off vegetarians) because Fritchey has been continuously tied to the “sausage-making” in Chicago’s legacy of corrupt political culture. After all, Fritchey has been put on the hot seat for his role as a zoning lobbyist for clients looking to get clearance to develop in Chicago. He’s also sought the support of the Northwest side Chicago Machine back in January. And, as Progress Illinois has covered in depth, Fritchey has no inclination of distancing himself to family members who exercise the type of insider clout that onlookers have continuously criticized as shady.
Maybe using a sausage wasn’t such a good idea after all. It represents Fritchey’s candidacy perfectly though. Nobody likes seeing sausage being made, but the end result is a pretty tasty product. Though with the Blagojevich and Burris scandals looming, maybe voters will actually care about Illinois sausage-making.