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Ad Watch: Lillehaug's Radio Strategy
by Mark Zdechlik
May 24, 2000
Part of MPR's Campaign 2000 Ad Watch Series
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DFL Senate candidate David Lillehaug has taken to the airways with a pair of unusual five-minute radio campaign ads. Staffers say it's a much better way to get their candidate's message to voters than standard 30-second commercials.

Listen to the Lillehaug radio ads.
Ad One
Ad Two
DAVID LILLEHAUG'S five-minute radio ads are airing statewide, according to his campaign. Staffers won't say how much the candidate is spending on his unusual long-format approach.

Lillehaug has put out two five-minute radio ads. The first walks listeners through his background; growing up in South Dakota as the son of a union-represented teacher and graduating from Harvard Law School before working on Walter Mondale's unsuccessful presidential bid. Lillehaug also uses the ad to talk about his accomplishments as the United States attorney for Minnesota.

In his second radio spot, Lillehaug talks about the need to reduce the influence of big business and special interest groups in politics, and about the need for health care reform.

Lillehaug's campaign manager Sean Gagen says the five-minute ads were designed to set his candidate apart from the wide field of DFLers hoping to take on Rod Grams. "We want to break away from the 30-second sound bites," Gagen says. "We want to have a kind of conversation with voters and five minutes is a good period of time folks folks to get our points on a subject."

Until recently, attorney Mike Ciresihad been the only candidate broadcasting commercials.

"They are a little bit heavier on substance and a little less slick in terms of trying to frame the candidate as an attractive character."

- Clay Steinman
Macalester College Communications Studies Department Chair Clay Steinman says with his five minute spots, Lillehaug gets beyond the simple rhetoric common to most campaign ads.

"If we compare these ads to the Ciresi ads we've seen, they are a little bit heavier on substance and a little less slick in terms of trying to frame the candidate as an attractive character," says Steinman. "It really is much more about how Lillehaug feels about the issues."

And Steinman says he thinks voters would learn a lot more about candidates and be in a better position to decide political contests if more political advertising took the form of Lillehaug's five-minute spots. "It's definitely something new. If all the ads on radio and on TV would be five minutes and have the candidate talking to voters I think we would be a lot better off. It would be a lot easier to make rational decisions about who we want to vote for."

Lillehaug's campaign says it's planning additional long-form radio commercials - advertisements it's also featuring on the candidates Web site.