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.