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.
Top candidates for Hawaii governor often air mini-biographies during the election season, clips that explain their origins, their experiences and their values.
The videos are never negative, are beautifully filmed and scored, and invariably feature glowing testimonials from family and friends of the candidate.
They can also be pretty mushy, bringing tears to the eyes of some viewers.
That more or less explains “Bucket of Stars,” a 15-minute spot directed by island filmmaker Edgy Lee that aired Tuesday on KFVE and is scheduled to air every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on KFVE until the Aug. 9 primary.
One of the best things about the Abercrombie infomercial is the nostalgic film footage of Honolulu and Waikiki, apparently from the 1950s and 1960s. Hawaii never looked so good, and it will make viewers feel good.
Another plus is Abercrombie himself, who talks at length about his time in Hawaii, which began in 1959 at the University of Hawaii. This is the Neil Abercrombie that people who know him well fell in love with — personable, funny, warm, caring, focused — but it’s a side most voters may not be aware of.
Watch the ad (but have those tissues ready):
Remember, this is a political ad; its purpose is to persuade people to vote for him.
As such, the ad appeals directly — one might say shamelessly — to Japanese-Americans (e.g., the governor talks movingly about the Honouliuli interment camp on Oahu), women (e.g., the governor’s wife, Nancie Caraway, says her husband has always supported working women) education (e.g., the candidate, Caraway and his late mother were teachers) and Hawaiians (e.g., John Waihee reminds viewers that Abercrombie, a Democrat, succeeded in getting the Akaka Bill on federal recognition passed in the U.S. House).
Will “Bucket of Stars” inspire voters? Maybe. Others might be turned off by the flagrant overtures.
Abercrombie’s ad was the most significant launch of the week, one of a slew of TV spots eating up network time.
In fact, Abercrombie has a new 30-second spot, too, called “Fighter.”
Watch the ad:
“Fighter” is mostly about education, and pretty standard fare as ads go: The governor signing papers, talking on the phone, meeting with various groups.
Yawn. Most channel surfers will quickly forget they even saw it.
Clayton Hee, the state senator running for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary, comes off better in his latest ad.
Watch the ad:
People like seeing a candidate’s kids, and Hee’s son is at the center of “Family.” Hee’s message is that he has tried to instill in his son the importance of public service — to “pitch in” to make Hawaii a better place.
A second ad from the Hee campaign stars Vicky Cayetano, the wife of former Gov. Ben Cayetano. Cayetano is a businesswoman, and she praises Hee’s ability to bring together politicians, unions and businesses to pass a law that saved employers more than $151 million in unemployment insurance taxes.
“Clayton Hee knows how to get things done,” Cayetano says.
Watch the ad:
This ad is consistent with Hee’s efforts to illustrate his many legislative accomplishments, while the previous ad shows a personal side of Hee.
Hee is running against the incumbent LG, Shan Tsutsui, who thus far this season has had the most memorable television ad — the one where people try to pronounce his name.
A new spot from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is an improvement from her last TV ad, one that reporter Nick Grube accurately called 30 seconds of information overload.
Watch the latest ad:
This is an effective ad, and it dovetails with Hanabusa’s increasingly vocal opposition, in Congress and on the campaign trail, to sending troops back to Iraq.
Whether it will be a top priority of voters is unknown right now. The Sunni insurgency has had to fight for headline space with several other major international hotspots. But “Hardest Vote” nonetheless shows a focused Hanabusa campaign.
So does this second spot:
There is arguably no other figure in Hawaii politics more beloved than Dan Akaka, who retired from the U.S. Senate after the 2012 election. Both he and former Gov. George Ariyoshi have also voiced radio spots for Hanabusa and are appearing in print ads as well.
On the one hand, the support of Democratic Party elders (Cayetano is also supporting Hanabusa) may help Hanabusa as she tries to unseat U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. But a whole lot of younger voters may not know who these guys are (especially Arioyoshi, whose last year in office was nearly 30 years ago).
Which brings us to Schatz, who has two new spots, both smoothly produced pieces.
Watch the first ad:
The ad takes a dig at Big Oil — always an easy target — while linking energy issues to Hawaii’s most important resource, its keiki. It’s a reminder that energy is a Schatz priority.
So is the middle class, which the second ad plays up along with energy.
Watch the second ad:
The second ad was produced by Dixon/Davis Media Group of Washington, D.C., according to Politico, a firm that has done work for President Obama and U.S. Senate Democrats including Mazie Hirono. The earlier ad appears to be their handiwork as well. These guys know what they are doing.
We close with a video of a different sort — very low budget and featuring just one person talking, Ben Cayetano, comparing and contrasting Abercrombie with David Ige, the state senator challenging the governor.
Watch the clip:
It’s fascinating and perhaps unprecedented to watch a former governor and fellow Democrat take down the current governor who has been a friend of Cayetano’s for 40 years. It certainly does not reflect well on Abercrombie.
Neither does another video that shows Ariyoshi also expressing buyer’s remorse over Abercrombie’s election and who is now backing Ige.
The problem for the Ige campaign is that it seems the governors’ takedowns are only available on YouTube and posted on Ige’s website. Thus, only a few people may watch the videos, as compared with the well-funded Abercrombie campaign airing fresh spots into people’s television sets with increasing regularity.