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AdWatch: How Lynne Abraham missed the boat with her first TV ad

Type of ad: Positive

Candidate: Lynne Abraham

By: Abraham for Mayor

Title: "Photos"

The Basics: Lynne Abraham dressed in a black suit in a room filled with photos of children pinned to laundry lines. Thus, Abraham makes her TV debut in the race for mayor. The message, not surprisingly, is about education. And in it, grandmotherly Lynne gets to gently dish on her opponents, Jim Kenney and Anthony Hardy Williams. She says: One is for charters, one is for public schools. Her message: I am for all children. And she promises to fight hard for them in Harrisburg and, if necessary, file a suit in federal court against the state. This was done by MVAR Media, a Virginia firm whose previous clients include U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. For a sample of their work for Casey click here.

Crit: There's nothing wrong with this ad -- Abraham shows well (Benign but forceful is her mode) the shots of the kids are nice, but my crit has to do with the timing. The primary is three weeks away. This is no time to enter the debate over education (all of the candidates favor education). This ad would have been timely if it could be added to the mix three weeks ago and I know why it wasn't. (She didn't have the money?) But it strikes me as the right ad for the wrong time. Abraham should use her TV money to highlight her advantage over both her main opponents: They are taking SuperPAC money and she is not. That's a perfect topic for a double-barrel ad that labels them, oh, something like (drum roll, please) "pawns of the special interests." She can't differentiate herself as being more for kids than them, so why bother?

Is the ad factual? Yes, but it oversimplifies her opponents' stands on education -- which, judging by their public statements, are the same as hers. They don't just support charter schools. They don't just support traditional public schools. They support good schools. Education has washed out as a hot campaign topic because the candidates have chewed it until it is mush.

A possible slogan: Maybe Abraham should reach back into the political past for her slogan. In the late 1960's, when Republicans Arlen Specter was running for DA and Tom Gola for city controller, adman Elliot Curson devised a great slogan for them: They're younger, they're tougher and nobody owns them. Abraham obviously needs a variation on that, as in: She's older, she's tougher and nobody owns her. Might as well own up to being 74.

Overall grade: On our Pass/Fail scale this is a PASS, in terms of its technical proficiency -- it's effective at delivering its message. But, I have to wonder about the timing.