I subscribe 100% to the school of thought that says every communication in life “is not about what you say, but about what people hear,” and I think that rule should be applied most stringently in the political realm. Fully acknowledging my bias in such matters, I think this is an awesome ad from that angle. (It’s also a solid effort to steal whatever thunder Blanche Lincoln might have.)
Here’s what I mean: It’s one thing to have Bill Halter talk about social security. It’s quite another to have older voters talk about social security. The former scenario, no matter how truthful the message, will always have a layer of “politician trying to get votes” to it. The latter, however, can avoid that subtext if it seems like the people speaking are being genuine. Whomever wrote this ad absolutely nailed the “if it seems…genuine” part with the “I’ve known Bill Halter for forty years” and “or he’ll hear from me!” dialogue. (Putting the speakers’ full names was an awesome touch that added an extra layer of realism, too.)
As for stealing Lincoln’s thunder, we get an implied “Bill Clinton trusted Halter to protect social security” message as well explicit “George Bush attacked social security” and “Lincoln voted to cut your benefits” messages. (The sequencing of those three name-drops is brilliant, too, creating implied parallels between Halter and Clinton and between Bush and Lincoln.)
I realize that I am being fairly effusive in my praise for what seems like a pretty mild-mannered ad. I don’t apologize for this, and I think the fact that it looks at first blush to be less-than-deserving of this praise just supports the idea that it’s not what you say that matters. This ad was aimed for a specific demographic and, for that demo, it nails the “what people hear” part of the equation.
I should note that the ad does make me want to make “Cocoon” jokes, but that probably says more about me than about the ad.