California is looking increasingly like a breakwater against the GOP wave of 2010. And if the polls hold and former (and future) governor Jerry Brown and embattled liberal Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer overcome their respective challenges by Silicon Valley Republicans Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, the following ads -- three of the strongest of the 2010 campaign season -- will deserve significant credit.
To the clips...
Ad No. 1 portrays Whitman as a clone of California's lame duck governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose 2003 campaign was also run by GOP consultant Mike Murphy. $141 million buys a lot of airtime, but not, it seems, an original script:
Ad No. 2 turns Whitman's own closing argument against her. The Republican has been arguing that she has the vision to restore the "California Dream" that originally drew her to the West Coast 30 years ago. Unfortunately for Whitman, the California she pines for just so happens to have been governed by...Jerry Brown:
Ad No. 3 is Boxer's -- a spot about job losses that may just help the California Democrat keep hers. The ad features, in a stark documentary style, real people laid off by Fiorina, the former CEO of HP, who, the workers point out, axed 30,000 American jobs, bought five corporate jets, and pocketed $100 million for the trouble:
What's the common thread that makes these ads so effective?
They don't look or sound like attack ads. No voice-of-God narration. No creepy Halloween soundtrack. No newspaper clippings. They're jarring simply for being fact-heavy -- for being true.
I’d expected Brown in particular to use his limited ad dollars to pummel avowed immigration hawk Whitman for her long-term employment of an undocumented housekeeper. Instead, he turned to funny, minimally produced, YouTube-friendly ads that paint Whitman not as a hypocrite but as a dilettante and a phony. The reason his ads, and Boxer’s, have done the trick is because they're innovative -- the kind of spots that, going into this campaign, you might have expected to have seen from two former CEOs from Silicon Valley.