Spending more than $50,000 to air a 60-second spot on five local television stations this month, first-time political candidate Vicky Cayetano is introducing herself to viewers and voters as a candidate of change.

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“Because what Hawaii needs now, to paraphrase Elvis, is ‘a little less conversation, and a lot more action,’” says the advertisement’s narrator.

It’s a slick and effective clip that manages to squeeze in key points of Cayetano’s life story — single mom, business owner — and her platform — economic growth, affordable housing, better schools, climate change.

“Aloha,” the candidate herself says at one point with Diamond Head as the backdrop. “Hawaii needs new leadership and a new direction,” and not the “same old, same old.”

The ad, slugged as “Less Conversation, More Action,” draws from a 1968 song by Elvis Presley, “A Little Less Conversation,” which serves to link Cayetano, who as child actress Vicky Tiu appeared in the 1963 film “It Happened at the World’s Fair” with The King.

It’s an interesting tactical decision, latching one’s political star to someone who died in 1977. The song itself, co-written by Mac (“In The Ghetto”) Davis, is pretty much all about sex. Sample refrain: “Close your mouth and open up your heart and, baby, satisfy me, satisfy me, baby.” And check out the video showing Presley on the prowl at a swinging ’60s shindig.

Elvis and Vicky Cayetano still from a movie
A young Vicky Liu and “a hunk, a hunk of burning love” from a 1960s movie, an image featured in a political commercial for Vicky Cayetano running this month. Screenshot

My guess is many folks won’t recall the song, which was a hit but not a defining one for Presley. It is also not part of the ad. But for a large segment of the voting population — i.e., Gen X, Baby Boomers and older — it may generate positive vibes for Cayetano, given Presley’s long, rich history in the islands.

As Hawaii Magazine chronicled in a 2021 story, it began in 1957 with concerts on Oahu and continued with support for building the Arizona Memorial, plenty of family vacations, the filming of several movies (“Blue Hawaii” in 1961) and the “Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii” televised concert on Jan. 14, 1973, which I watched as a boy along with half of the nation.

But “Less Conversation, More Action” risks defining Cayetano as an Elvis acolyte rather than a candidate with her own distinctions. In fact, it is the first political ad of the 2022 gubernatorial race to run on commercial television.

Watch the ad:

Cayetano comes off better in a full-length version of “Less Conversation, More Action,” although far fewer people will probably see it. Nearly three minutes in length, it includes the Elvis bits but emphasizes her immigrant roots and long work hours to establish her career while raising a family. The soundtrack is pretty somber in order to stir viewer emotion.

Her business, United Laundry Services, is featured prominently. News headlines say that Cayetano supported the state’s shark fin ban, something most people likely did not know. (I am one of those persons.)

And her husband, Ben Cayetano, the first Filipino American governor in the nation, along with their charitable work, gets prime billing. While the couple has made clear that this is Vicky’s campaign, their ownership of nine dogs, three of them rescue dogs, can’t help but be a plus.

The same somber soundtrack continues as the ad explains how difficult it is to get by in Hawaii. Hire a successful businesswoman, the campaign suggests: “Because times are tough for too many Hawaii residents, Vicky Cayetano is running for governor.”

The candidate comes on herself at that point to say, “I’m not a politician but I know how to lead. And I know how to deliver real results.”

That video is a better contrast with Cayetano’s two main opponents, the current lieutenant governor and the previous Honolulu mayor. That’s something that could get voters, to paraphrase another Elvis song, “all shook up.”

Watch the ad:

Of note: Cayetano’s ads are running across a broad range of popular TV programs including local and national news, mainstream shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” local favorites like “Sam Choy’s in the Kitchen” and ethnic fare like “Soko Ga Japan.” That’s smart politics.

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