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Ravnsborg Ad Fails with Cheap Production Values, Cheap Shot

Last updated on 2014.05.10

Jason Ravnsborg offers a new campaign ad that misfires on every cylinder possible:

The first half of the ad plays the gloomy, minor-key music of doom usually reserved to play over grainy black-and-white images of one's opponents. The martial Marvel Studios superhero-fight drums kick in halfway through, but the ad still ends on the grim strains.

The voiceover is a standard anonymous movie-trailer baritone, not a South Dakotan we know (at least he doesn't sound French), and not the candidate himself. It's a positive ad talking all about Ravnsborg's quals, but the voice sounds more like what we hear when a candidate wants to badmouth other candidates but not have it in his own voice.

The voiceover opens intoning that "you've probably been hearing about Jason Ravnsborg." This is a specious marketing ploy, creating the false impression that there's all sorts of buzz about the last-place candidate. It says to the 90% of viewers who respond to the name with puzzlement, "What? You haven't heard of Jason Ravnsborg? All the cool kids have; what's your problem?"

The voiceover calls Ravnsborg "the fresh face." "The" is inaccurate; Annette Bosworth and Clayton Walker are at least as politically fresh-faced as Ravnsborg. "Fresh face" is Bosworthian code for "I have no experience, so I need some adjectives to make that sound like a good thing."

The voiceover repeats text on the screen, which is a sure sign of PowerPoint-itis, the disorder that leads millions of Americans to think that the proper use of visual aids is to treat your video like a giant notecard with the text of your speech. It also signals that the candidate can't afford to hire an ad team to shoot quality video of real South Dakotans, so instead you just make a PowerPoint with still photos and random digital transitions.

The voiceover says Ravnsborg is "uniquely qualified." "Uniquely" seems a gross overstretch when comparing oneself to people who have campaigned and fundraised before, who have served as legislators and governor, and who have been involved in local and state politics prior to this Senate campaign.

The ad shouts that Ravnsborg is the "ONLY attorney running for the U.S. Senate seat" (all caps in original). Ravnsborg emphasizes a professional credential that makes four out of five voters cringe. Oops.

The biggest cheese grater in Ravnsborg ad is this insulting lie:

Jason Ravnsborg is the ONLY U.S. Senate candidate with relevant military experience.

Now let's be clear: I'm not terribly fond of all the military chest-thumping that inserts itself into our politics. Saying, "I'm a soldier and you're not" does not automatically lead to the conclusion that "I'm a better candidate/patriot/human being than you." Good patriots serve their country in many ways without ever touching a uniform or a gun. Elevating soldiers to a special class instills a martial spirit that can be unhealthy for a peaceful nation. Dulce et decorum est....

But if a candidate is going to claim military service as a résumé booster, then he has to allow every candidate with that experience to stake that claim. Ravnsborg is an Army Reservist with experience in transportation and intelligence. Ravnsborg's opponent Rep. Stace Nelson served in the Marines as a military policeman and criminal investigator. Ravnsborg has a Bronze Star. Nelson has busted-up legs and back from getting run over by a criminal he was trying to apprehend. Both are soldiers. Both get to play the military card.

We can argue about whether either man's military experiences would make him a better Senator. But if Jason is going to put up pictures of his medal and his uniform and say, "I'm a soldier, yaaay!" he doesn't get to say, "My opponent's a solider, boooo!" or, worse, as this ad does, "That Marine over there wasn't really a soldier." That tactic is inconsistency at best, and an insulting lie at the worst.

Ravnsborg's ad fails on many levels. It is cheap and unsuccessful marketing based on sleight-of-mouth rebranding of a thin résumé and a mendacious insult to a fellow veteran.


  1. John Tsitrian 2014.05.09

    His campaign just self-destructed. His gratuitous slam at another veteran's military record as "irrelevant" is over the top.

  2. Jerry 2014.05.09

    What a dud. His add insults veterans and he should apologize for it. He makes the award seem cheap and dishonest.

  3. CK 2014.05.09

    As someone with military experience...This ad just torques me. His claim that he has more relevant military experience than Stace really bothers me. It's akin to the WWII and Koreans Wars veterans saying that Vietnam veterans didn't serve in a "real" war.

    Personally, if it was me, and I had only these two veterans choose from...I would take the NCO over the officer any day.

  4. PNR 2014.05.09

    What got me was his apparent belief that being a lawyer is going to enhance his image with voters.

    I noticed the word "relevant" regarding his military service and thought, "what makes your military service relevant to being in the senate?"

    And a bronze star. Woo-hoo. Does it have the combat "V" device? If not, then it's not much different from a Commendation Medal (except it was received for work done in a combat zone). All sorts of mid- to high-grade paper-pushers have them. Frankly, there are two things I look for in the chest candy on military uniforms - an indication of combat experience (Combat Action Ribbon in the Navy/Marine Corps, Combat Badge in the Army, the "V" device on certain medals), and the Purple Heart ribbon.

  5. Disgusted Dakotan 2014.05.09

    Here is the real NCIS Nelson worked for as a Marine and civilian:


    Here is an online bio with links to some of his awards:


    Somebody have the Rambo reserve transportation officer post his Bronze Star award and lets see if it was for engaging the enemy in fire fights like he claims.

    Either Ravnsborg is out of uniform, he does not have the Army Combat Device on his pictures, or he is lying and was never in a fire fight with the enemy.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2014.05.09

    Is South Dakota under some direct military threat that we need to have s senator with "relevant military experience"?

  7. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.05.09

    Excellent question Roger. Lousy ad Ravnsborg.

  8. Jenny 2014.05.09

    That's funny, Roger. Republicans ARE obsessed with military service, and wars. I guess it's the whose military service is better game.

  9. grudznick 2014.05.09

    This young Mr. Ravnsborg isn't going to pull many more votes than Mr. Howie would if he were in the race. That Mr. Nelson and his supporters are so upset shows exactly the flaws in Mr. Nelson's thin skin and character. Puffing out his chest and pounding the table "I'm not a former Marine" is the sort of meaningless stuff that turned all but a handful of those in our legislatures against him and made him almost the least effective representative ever. Maybe even less effective than that fellow from the Czec pastry days.

  10. larry kurtz 2014.05.09

    grud: you're an idiot.

  11. larry kurtz 2014.05.09

    in fact, you read more like pp every day: your sister?

  12. grudznick 2014.05.09

    Mr. kurtz, if only you could attend the weekly breakfasts where I indulge others and then deliver my rant. You would be much more educated, just like the old days. Ask our good friend Bill.

  13. Joe 2014.05.09

    Its an interesting ad, generally I'd say it was a poor quality wrong tone, but at same time, when you are an unknown candidate, you have to think differently. At the same time, when one of these GOP people running against Mike Rounds understands there is less then a month to the primary and to win it you have to attack him its not going to matter.

    I can only think of 2 reasons they aren't attacking him. 1 is they don't want to win, or 2 is they think have info saying something will come out, and at this point I just don't buy that, because there is less then a month.

    You might not come out the winner if you are the attack dog, but at the same time you have no choice unless you do.

  14. Joe 2014.05.09

    chance, not choice

  15. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.10

    grudz, I have no idea who you are, but I am curious, were you ever in the legislature and if you were, did you ever befriend long time veteran legislator, Gordon Peterson from Wall?

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    But Joe, Ravnsborg's ad doesn't demonstrate that he's thinking differently. He's stretching his own empty résumé and lying about another candidate. That seems unfortunately typical. There's also nothing different about the production choices, just standard marketing lines and cheap digital effects.

    Plus, I'd contend that the fact that his ad people chose some anonymous baritone voiceover to say these words instead of the candidate himself, live and facing us, suggests that his ad people think Ravnsborg looks and sounds too dweeby to sell this message himself.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    DD—sorry! I saw that Nelson military listing and meant to include that link. I have added it to the original post.

  18. Joe 2014.05.10

    I agree Cory on the its the same damn thing, which I don't understand. Someone needs to attack Rounds, they should have started in February.

    What I was getting at, is the type of ad, poor production, sounds like a negative ad almost is interesting, might resignate as it could help him with name recognition because it will get attention compared to the traditional this is my life ad.

  19. larry kurtz 2014.05.11

    And Jason sucking resources from Stace: again, Mr. Wadhams, only in South Dakota could you pull this shit off.

  20. grudznick 2014.05.11

    Mr. Stricherz, Gordon befriended uncountable numbers of people over his well-lived life. Now there was a man who served in many ways. Tougher than nails, a Veteran in the truest sense of the word, and a long time member of community service clubs.

  21. Les 2014.05.11

    """"And Jason sucking resources from Stace: again, Mr. Wadhams, only in South Dakota could you pull this shit off.""""
    You admitting the Dems as I've said all along, walk hand in hand with SD opportunists, Lar? Cory doing a great job of helping them?
    Waiting on EB6 and the new game in town.

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