California Attorney General Ad Watch
By Lucienne Marrow
Ad Title: Fallen Heroes1
Sponsor: Poochigian for Attorney General2
Ad run: start date unknown. [Personally viewed on cable in the late afternoon the weekend of October 14-15th in the last]
Ad Overview: This ad focuses on the death penalty and Jerry Brown's record of opposing the death penalty. The ad states that Jerry Brown may be the "least qualified person" in California for Attorney General.
The ad begins with a distorted scene where a man and a woman are running out of a house. In the background there is a piano playing a gloomy key-struck sound. The first statement of the ad follows this image and claims that there are two worlds. Good and Evil. The "good" is represented visually by law enforcement in this ad. A cuffed inmate being escorted by police officers represents the “evil”. The images of the law enforcement officers and the inmate appear on the screen to correspond with the narrator saying the words, "good and evil." The narrator says, "often these to worlds collide." When this is being said, a scene with two police officers drawing their guns in a dilapidated room appears. The ad then cuts to a man pointing a gun at the camera and pulling the trigger. During this scene the narrator says "and sometimes evil wins." When the man pulls the trigger a faint but effective thunderous sound is heard in the background and the ad quickly cuts to a rainy funeral scene. The ad leaves the impression that the funeral is for a police officer. There is an American flag and another unidentifiable flag raised next to the casket. The funeral scene fades to a backdrop of an inmate being escorted by police and some prison bars. In the forefront are the words "JERRY BROWN OPPOSES THE DEATH PENALTY" in capital letters. The narrator reads the text. The narrator then goes on to say "even for serial killers and cop killers." When the narrator says "serial killers," an image of Charles Manson appears with a prison cell backdrop. When the narrator says, "cop killers," an academy photo of a police officer appears on the screen. When the narrator recites the "killers" in the phrase cop killers, a louder more pronounced thunderous noise sounds and a special effect is done with the police officers photo. It looks as though it flashes from the photo to the negative and back again. After the flash, the ad immediately cuts to a married woman, wearing black, with her head in her hands at a funeral. After this scene simultaneously the narrator says "Jerry Brown..." and an image of a drive-by shooting appears on the screen. The narrator continues with his statement saying, "he may just be the least qualified person in all of California to be Attorney General." As the narrator completes this statement, the drive-by shooting continues with the perpetrator pointing the gun at the camera. Then a police chase on foot is shown. Finally, the shadow of a gang of individuals is shown on a graffiti covered wall. One of these individuals is holding a gun in the air. At the closing of the ad Poochigian's endorsement can be seen at the bottom of the screen "Paid for by Poochigian for Attorney General" along with a serious photo of Chuck Poochigian.
Ad Transcript: "There are two worlds, Good and Evil. And often, these two worlds collide. And sometimes evil wins. Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty. Even for serial killers and cop killers. Jerry Brown. He may just be the least qualified person in all of California to be Attorney General."
Type of Ad: Negative / Attack Ad5
Context: According to the California Official Voter Information Guide the Attorney General is the state’s chief law enforcement officer. The attorney general also heads the Department of Justice, which provides support to local law enforcement. 5 Based on these responsibilities; the ads heavy emphasis on police officers and criminals is appropriate. This ad parallels the tactics used by Poochigian's opponent Jerry Brown. They both portray police officers in their television ads and both indirectly label their opponent soft on crime.
[based on a 1-10 scale, 1 being the least and 10 being the most]
Truthfulness: This ad is accurate in its statement that Jerry Brown’s opposes the death penalty. A recent article in the Los Angeles times confirms that Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty, but he is quoted as saying “I believe more in the rule of law than in my own opinion.”7 Brown’s position is that as Attorney General he will uphold the law. When evaluating the truthfulness of this ad it is important to point out that while Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty, this is much different than supporting serial killers. This ad uses strong images in an effort to make Jerry Brown look soft on crime. “Fallen Heroes” even shows an image of Charles Manson, which gives the impression that Jerry Brown is on the side of serial killers.
Effectiveness: Negative ads can easily backfire into the endorsers face. It can make the endorser look like a mudslinger rather than his opponent looking bad, as the ad had intended.8 A few links on the effectiveness of negative ads can be found on the 'Sites of Interest' page. As far as the topic of the death penalty, this could be an effective approach at slamming Jerry Brown. Californians still support the death penalty 2-1 (63%-32%) over those who don't.9 Stating that Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty could swing voters away from voting for Jerry on Election Day. However, with such negativity placed on a person like Jerry Brown who is well known in the political arena by ordinary citizens, this ad could have done more to damage Poochigian's own image than that of his opponent Jerry Brown.
For effectiveness, this ad rates a 3.
Informative: This ad states one fact about Jerry Brown - his position opposing the death penalty. No other issues are addressed in the ad. The ad tries to use the image of police officers to give Chuck Poochigian credibility, but no endorsements are used to ground that credibility in something quantitative. The ad employs fallacies and relies heavily on emotion. The ad is paid for by Chuck Poochigian’s campaign but it gave no information about him as a candidate. The ad is not every informative about either candidate and does little to educate and inform the average citizen about their choices for Attorney General in the 2006 election.
Overall this ad rates a 2 for its informative value.
To learn more about Chuck Poochigian, you can visit his website. A link is provided in the menu bar. Articles on Poochigian can be found on the 'Sites of Interest Page.'
1. You Tube Video.
3. Dictionary of Philosophy: Types of Informal Fallacy by Peter A. Angeles (copyright 1981).
4. Source Watch.
5. Campaigns for Sale: A Newsroom Guide to Political Advertising p. 5
6. California Official Voter Guide.
7. Bailey, Eric. “Brown and Poochigian Trade Shots on Crime.” L.A. Times online. 6 Oct. 2006. 20 Oct. 2006. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-debate6oct06,1,6389183.story
8. "How Do Candidates Get Your Attention: A Guide to Campaign Advertising" : Center For Politics.
9. DiCamillo, Mark & Mervin Field. "While Stille STrongly Supporting the Death Penalty, Californians Have Mixed Views on Some Aspects of Capital Punishment. Majority Opposes the Delay in the Morales Execution." The Field Poll. 3 March 2006. 20 Oct. 2006.