Type of Ad: Positive
Candidate: Jim Kenney
By: Building a Better Pennsylvania
The Basics: The hits keep coming for Jim Kenney from union-backed SuperPACs. Earlier this week it was Forward Pennsylvania, a teachers union et al PAC, praising their candidate. Now, it is Building a Better Pennsylvania., a construction trades PAC (read: John Dougherty) with a new pro-Kenney ad. This one was done by The Campaign Group, the Philadelphia-based media firm headed by Neil Oxman, who is a veteran of many city, state and national campaigns. He's the man who did the "Olivia" ad for Michael Nutter in 2007 that featured the mayor's precocious daughter and showed that Nutter was, in fact, a human being. It gave Nutter a major boost in the final weeks of that campaign.
Crit: The key word here is vouch. In political terms, it means getting an outside source to vouch for your candidate's legitimacy. In this case, as in many Oxman ads, it is the media doing the vouching: juxtaposing (mostly Inquirer) headlines on screen with an announcer's praise of Kenney. So, while the headline reads: "Kenney Offers Plan for Education" (which is white-bread neutral) the male announcer (who sounds a bit like Kenney) says the candidate has a plan to fund schools that has been "overwhelmingly praised." Has it really? I don't think so. Also, the announcer says, Kenney is bringing together "business leaders and working groups." Really?
What Isn't Said: What isn't said is that the ad takes Kenney's union support and, using descriptive newspaper headlines, to look like broad public support. Not a surprise, given the source of the money for the ad. In a way, though, it over-inflates Kenney. He's not someone with broad public support yet. He is still seeking it. But, why worry about mere details? If you say it is true, it may turn out to be true.
A Moment of Truth: These ads are done by an independent PAC without direct access to Kenney, which means they have to use publicly available shots of the candidate. And the shots don't do him a favor. He looks dour, if not sour, in some of them. Which is the usual cast of his face.
Is the ad factual: Yes, up to the point where it points to union support for Kenney. Using the bellows to make him a Candidate for All People goes too far. But then that is the idea behind political advertising (and all advertising) to sell a product by making it magical.
Overall Grade: A tough one. I give it an A on its effectiveness and a C on its conflation of special-interest support with broad public support.