While I haven't seen all the political ads that have been running on TV the past several weeks - no sane person, even a political editor, should subject himself to that - I have seen quite a few. For what it's worth (I figure not much), here is a quick analysis.
Despite what the so-called political experts say, I think the best overall ads this year go to Independent Party gubernatorial candidate Mer-rill Cook.Yes, Cook makes fun of himself. And the political "pros" say a candidate must look gubernatorial (or senatorial or representativeorial or whatever) and can't make fun of himself in ads because some people won't understand the humor and think the candidate is acting foolish.
But Cook's ads make me smile. I especially like the one where he walks to the blackboard and says something like: "Now Mike, Stewart, this isn't hard," and with a flip of two cards changes the state's funding formula for public education. (Of course, Cook may be all wet in his claim that it is so simple to get more money into classrooms, but who says political ads have to be truthful?)
I also like his ice skating and lobbyist ads.
One reason Cook's ads may look so good is that the ads of his two opponents - Republican Mike Leavitt and Democrat Stewart Hanson - are so lame. I mean guys, really, can't you do better?
Certainly Leavitt should be able to. For most of the 1980s Leavitt held a second job - his real job being building his family's insurance business - running political campaigns. And the ads he oversaw for Orrin Hatch, Jake Garn and others don't look like what he's doing in his own race.
Leavitt has a new set of TV ads that show him talking about various issues while walking or standing in the Utah Capitol rotunda. Talk about wooden movements by the extras. Who are these people walking behind Leavitt, original cast members of the Night of the Living Dead? I find myself watching them instead of listening to Leavitt - a very bad result for a political commercial.
In one ad, Leavitt walks up and puts his hands on the back of a chair. What's this chair doing in the hallway of the Capitol?
Hanson doesn't have just a prop out of place in his TV ads. His whole ad is out of place. We have Hanson dressed in a suit and tie talking to well-dressed people around a picnic table in what looks like a forest. Is this how people meet the candidate to talk about issues? Dressed up in a campground?
I found myself hoping these ads weren't filmed recently or we could have had numerous accidental shootings. (Tip to politicians: Don't wear brown and walk around a campground looking for voters to talk to during the Utah deer hunt.)
The production quality of Hanson's ads also leave something to be desired. One staff member here asked me, in all seriousness, if Hanson's ads were supposed to be home videos. I don't think so.
Production quality is not a problem for Bob Bennett and Enid Greene, both of whom are using the same ad agency to produce slick "in your face" TV commercials. Bennett's previous ads were a great hit, partly credited with his come-from-behind victory over Joe Cannon in the GOP U.S. Senate primary. But they're starting to wear now. In a post-primary ad, Bennett's face gets bigger and bigger until - if you're fast - you can count the pores on his nose. This is much closer to Bennett than I want to get.
Greene, a Republican running in the 2nd Congressional District, uses smart design mixed with cuts and graphics to produce good ads - a step up from Bennett's technique. Democrat Karen Shepherd's ads also look good. Shepherd is Greene's Democratic opponent.
The real challenge for candidates' TV ads is, of course, to grab the viewer's attention, to stand out from all the other guys' TV ads. This year, some are certainly doing a better job of this advertising than others.