It’s the time of year when all of the competitive state legislative campaigns start rolling out their television ads. Most of these candidates only have enough money to go up on air for the last several weeks, and the quality of their ads often vary widely. Some are rather dull or poorly produced, some are carbon copies of fellow candidates, and some are downright deceptive. Chris Brase’s, on the other hand, does an excellent job of pitching his candidacy and making him see like a real person and not just another politician.
Brase is a first-term Democratic state senator from the Muscatine/Scott County district. Elected in 2012 when he defeated an incumbent Republican senator, Brase’s day job is working as a firefighter for the Muscatine Fire Department. There aren’t many jobs that better-suit you to run for office, both from an experience standpoint and a messaging perspective. Brase uses his role as a public servant who protects his community to full effect in his latest TV ad:
“Firefighters don’t run from trouble, they run towards it,” Brase tells the camera after dousing some water on a (presumably) fake fire as he’s suited up in his firefighting gear.
“I’m Chris Brase, that’s what I’ve done as state senator – taken on our toughest challenges,” says another Chris Brase who appears in a suit in a frame to the firefighting Brase’s right.
He then goes on to list the issues he worked on in the Iowa Senate, including fighting human trafficking, giving veterans “more opportunity,” and protecting “women’s private, personal decisions.” The two Brases share a line at the end of their jobs being about “protecting those who need it most.”
It’s an effective ad for a number of reasons, starting off with portraying Brase in a hero-like role as a local firefighter. Most importantly, it just looks different. During the last month of a campaign, voters’ TVs are inundated with political ad after political ad, all of which typically follow the same script and present the same graphics and stock photos. This one makes you pay attention, with the dramatic opening and two Brases. The first time I watched it, it seemed a little odd with the left Brase waiting for his line, but upon seeing the whole thing it really works (and I’m guessing people in the Quad Cities media market will be seeing this a lot). The smoke that billows across both frames is a nice touch as well.
Like many political ads, it doesn’t delve too deep into the specifics of his legislative actions in Des Moines (difficult to do in 30 seconds). But it’s at least better than many Iowa Republican legislative TV and mail ads this year, which promote nice-sounding policies that they actually opposed. Brase is brave enough to lightly touch upon “women’s private, personal decisions,” which likely refers to women’s healthcare and abortion access, something not everyone in his district might agree with. He easily could have just added in another generic topic that everyone supports.
Other local candidates looking for a way to cut through the noise of the 2016 political ad cycle should take a few lessons from Brase’s. Sure, it helps when you’re a firefighter who can look like he’s coming out of an action movie, but shaking up the usual script isn’t impossible to do. When you make a political ad that looks like a political ad, voters zone out, and it makes you look like “just another politician.” Since you can’t include a ton of policy details in 30 seconds, your best bet is to find a way to present your own real-life personality. Brase comes off as much more authentic and seems like a real person with this ad, one of Iowa’s best in 2016.
by Pat Rynard