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Ad Watch: Where Are the Issues?
By Laura McCallum
August 1, 2000
Part of MPR's Ad Watch Series
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

The DFL's endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Jerry Janezich, has finally joined his major primary opponents in running ads. Janezich is starting with radio ads, weeks after three of his opponents began television advertising. One of them, Michael Ciresi, first started running TV ads in February and began another big television ad buy this week. In the latest in our series of Ad Watches, Minnesota Public Radio asks analyst Dean Alger to review the Janezich and Ciresi ads.

JERRY JANEZICH doesn't have as much campaign money as Mike Ciresi, Mark Dayton or Rebecca Yanisch. His campaign had less than $30,000 on hand at the end of June and is spending about $20,000 this week to run ads on 80 radio stations statewide. The Chisholm state senator and bar owner is trying to turn his status as the financial underdog into an advantage in his radio ad. (Listen)

The 60-second spot is unusual because of its lack of production. The entire ad is merely Janezich introducing himself to voters. Campaign manager Randy Schubring says that's intentional.

"Jerry does best one on one with voters, and we wanted to replicate that on radio," he said. "So it's a conversation between him and the listener. We actually did test the ad with music and without music and those that listened to it overwhelmingly liked the simplicity and sincerity that you hear in just Jerry's voice."

This can be seen in certain parts of the ad, like where Janezich says, "I'm going to earn your vote by the strength of my ideas, the passion in my heart, and my commitment to bettering the lives of our working families."

Analyst Dean Alger, the Minnesota director of the Alliance for Better Campaigns, says Janezich is clearly setting himself apart as the working man running against a bunch of millionaires. He also says that the Janezich monologue is surprisingly monotonous.

"Part of what Janezich is about is a very grassroots, man-of-the-people, with a passionate heart, and they seem to have given him a tranquilizer or something, because he's monotone and even when he talks about having passion in his heart, there's no passion in his voice," Alger says.

The ad is short on specifics, but that's not unusual in a bio ad. Janezich's DFL opponents ran their bio ads earlier in the campaign. Now attorney Mike Ciresi is back on television with four ads, all centered around the same theme. They all show Ciresi campaigning at a Hibbing parade and are narrated by his son Adam. (Listen)

The ads have a quirky touch often associated with Ciresi's ad creator, Bill Hillsman. One advertisement bears a striking resemblance to Hillsman's renowned "Looking for Rudy" ad from the 1990 Senate race, when a frenetic Paul Wellstone searched everywhere for Senator Rudy Boschwitz. This time, however, Ciresi catches up to Republican incumbent Rod Grams.

Analyst Alger says the ads are clever, and probably effective.

"Ciresi has a very different problem from Janezich," Alger said. "Ciresi, of course, is well off and a truly noted lawyer. What this round of Ciresi ads is really trying to do is show him in vigorous efforts at connecting with the public. I haven't run any focus groups, but I suspect these ads will come across very well."

Alger says the ads' humor and the inclusion of Ciresi's 23-year-old son, may appeal to younger Minnesotans and could entice some to the polls, although they don't typically vote in primaries. Alger has the same concern about the Ciresi ads(Listen) that he has about most of the Senate candidates' ads so far, not much substance and little on the issues.

"Look, these TV ads are shown on the mass medium of television, the universal access medium," Alger said. "We know from study after study after study that television is not giving us much in the way of substance of election coverage. So on this mass medium, I think voters should demand more."

Watch Ciresi's "Web-mercials"
Health Care
Alger notes that Ciresi's web site does offer much more on Ciresi's specific ideas, but not everyone has access to the Internet. Ciresi's campaign is also trying something new with a series of so-called "web-mercials", which are ads on health care and education running exclusively on his web site. Alger sees that as a positive trend because the ads can be linked to a candidate's positions on the issues. He says now that the DFL Senate candidates have all run bio ads trying to distinguish themselves from each other by their backgrounds, he hopes the next round of ads will take on the issues.

Former state auditor Mark Dayton, who has run the most detailed issue ads so far, is currently running two television spots on health care and Social Security, along with two radio ads on education. Businesswoman Rebecca Yanisch plans to be back on the air soon.