California Attorney General Ad Watch


By Lucienne Marrow

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Ad Description

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."

Ad Techniques

  • Simplification

    • The ad begins with a statement that there are "two worlds," "good and evil." This is an oversimplification of the way the world is. Poochigian is attempting to create, in peoples minds, a connection between inmates, evil and Jerry Brown. However, in reality, the world is not divided between good and evil. This is an argumentative technique and a fallacy. It could be categorized as an 'excluding the middle' fallacy (giving only two choices when in reality there are more) or a reductive fallacy3 (oversimplifying a concept to the point that it becomes untrue).

  • Transfer

    • Transfer is not made in the traditional sense (from a figure of prestige to an unrelated idea, thing, or person4). Poochigian uses images of identifiable or well-known individuals to transfer negativity to Jerry Brown's image.

    • In Poochigian's ad, when Jerry Brown is first mentioned, an image of an inmate in custody is shown. The image immediately following that one is a photo of Charles Manson. By having these negative images in proximity to the words "Jerry Brown." An attempt is being made to transfer the negativity of those images to the images of Jerry Brown. When Jerry Brown's name is said at the end, it happens simultaneously with a drive-by shooting. Another transfer of negativity to Brown's image.

  • Appeal to Emotion

    • Every visual in the Poochigian ad has an appeal to emotion.

    • When the narrator says good and evil, images of law enforcement and an inmate correspond to give a visual representation of these terms. These terms are used intentionally because they are emotionally loaded. We have seen similar use of these terms by the President and his administration when they make reference to the war on terror.

    • When the narrator says "and sometimes evil wins," a gun is pointed toward the camera and the trigger pulled. A thunderous noise can be heard and then the ad cuts to a funeral scene. It is apparent that the funeral is for a person who served the community in some manner because the American flag and another flag are both raised over the casket. Psychologically, the average citizen would draw the conclusion, based on the previous images, that this was a police officers funeral. The image of an officer's funeral has a strong appeal to emotion.

    • Throughout the ad somber, dark, piano music is being played. This emphasizes the dark images (funeral, inmates, Charles Manson, drive-bys, gangs, police chase) present in the ad.

    • All of the screenshots in the ad are dark. This gives the ad a serious, suspenseful and somber impression. All appeal to emotion.

Ad Watch

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.


While this ad focuses on crime, it gives very little policy information. The only real fact stated is that Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty. While the death penalty is an important topic it is just one of many issues that are relevant to the office of Attorney General. The ad states Jerry Brown’s opposition to the death penalty, but does not state the affect that this will have on policy once he is in office. This ad achieved the goal of informing viewers that Jerry Brown opposes the death penalty. Outside of this issue the ad sheds little light on how Brown’s views will affect his performance as Attorney General. “Fallen Heroes” also gives no information about Charles Poochigian. Poochigian is not mentioned in the ad at all. It does not give Poochigian's stance on the death penalty or any of his other positions on policies relevant to the Attorney General's office.

Ad Rating

[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.

The use of Charles Manson and the indication that Brown sides with cop killers and serial killers is a distortion of Brown’s position. Poochigian uses this ad to misrepresent Brown’s entire view on the death penalty. On truth telling this ad is technically true, but it fails to tell the whole truth. This ad also ends with a statement that, “Jerry Brown, he may just be the least qualified person in all of California to be Attorney General.” This is an incredulous statement. Jerry Brown was the Governor of California and has served in public office much of his life. While Poochigian may disagree with his politics it is not likely that Jerry Brown is the least qualified Californian for this job. Also, there is no actual argument made as to why Jerry Brown "may be the least qualified person in all of California." There are many logical faults in this ad.

On a scale of 1 to 10 this ad receives a 5 for truthfulness. There is really only one fact stated, and it is technically accurate. However, the facts are twisted to create a distorted image of Brown. Thus, the ad is misleading even though it is not completely untrue.

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.'