Editor’s Note: It’s an election year and that means lots of political commercials. Ad Watch is an occasional Civil Beat series in which we help you understand what you’re seeing and hearing when it comes to campaign messages from Hawaii candidates.

You might need your reading glasses — and a DVR — for U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s latest TV spot in her race against Sen. Brian Schatz.

The 30-second ad, called “Real Issues,” attempts to highlight some of Hanabusa’s priorities as a lawmaker in addition to some tangible achievements.

But the way the information is conveyed — with hundreds of words fading in and out on the screen — could be too much for voters to take in all at once.

Watch the ad for yourself here:

Hanabusa pumps a lot of information into 30 seconds. The voice-over alone points out that she supports seniors, veterans, jobs, Native Hawaiians, health care, education and funding for roads and buses.

If that weren’t enough, the screen is covered in quotes and phrases, some of which are clipped from old news articles, editorials and press releases.

Problem is you practically need to be a speed reader — or a highly caffeinated college student — just to keep up.

At least 225 words appear on screen in the 30-second spot, with some highlighted more than others.

Considering the average adult reads about 300 words per minute, it’s safe to assume that not every message will be digested.

Obviously, Hanabusa’s campaign was selective when picking out what words it wanted on screen. The ad is careful to avoid specifics or attributions. In fact, not a single quote is sourced.

So what exactly does Hanabusa highlight using the written word?

Short answer: Lots of stuff.

One quote comes from Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY’s List and a major supporter of the Hanabusa campaign.

She also nods to Hanabusa’s December 2013 vote against a bipartisan budget deal that Schatz and every other member of the delegation voted for.

Other tidbits come from Hanabusa’s own press releases, including her push to end sequestration-induced furloughs at Pearl Harbor and other announcements related to military funding.

Hanabusa even touches on the recent scandal surrounding wait times at the VA hospital, and highlights a key difference between her and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who wants Hawaii’s top veteran administrator fired.

Hanabusa said Hawaii should focus on fixing the hospital system and not “point fingers.”

But what the ad does more than anything is reinforce the idea that Hanabusa is a policy wonk who has trouble articulating herself in a concise manner.

She even makes this point herself in the ad, lifting a phrase from a Dec. 23, 2013 Civil Beat article.

As the ad says: “She is more interested in the complex business of legislating than playing the role of sound bite-spouting politician.”

But, as with any movie preview that pulls quotes from critics, it’s not the whole story.

Here’s the rest of what reporter Chad Blair had to say about Hanabusa in that Civil Beat article:

“While she can reference the minutiae of bills and the history of nations, demonstrating a mastery of names, dates and acronyms, it can come off as wonky and difficult for the average voter to relate to,” Blair wrote.

“Do voters want the smartest person in the room, or the one that makes them feel good about giving them their vote?”

 

How much do you value our journalism?

Civil Beat focuses exclusively on the kind of journalism most at risk of disappearing – in-depth, investigative and enterprise coverage of important local issues. While producing this type of journalism isn’t cheap, you won’t find our content hidden behind a paywall. We also never worry about upsetting advertisers – because we don’t allow any. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on donations from readers like you to help keep our stories free and accessible to everyone. If you value our journalism, show us with your support.

 

About the Author