If you like your political ads a little offbeat, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has a few new ones for you.
Not since Sen. Bob Bennett's quirky ads of 1992 which had Bennett's face filling the TV screen in ultra-closeups have Utahns seen a TV political ad campaign quite like this.
One ad, in fact, will have Beatles fans rubbing their eyes.
Meanwhile, Anderson's Nov. 4 Election Day opponent, Frank Pignanelli, also has a new TV ad running the first of his campaign. And the 30-second spot retains his campaign's baseball theme not bad timing considering what's been happening in Boston, New York City, Chicago and Miami these days.
In the ad, Pignanelli goes after Anderson … without mentioning his name.
Four new, 15-second Rocky-for-Mayor ads are now running in tandem, each pair making up a 30-second grouping. Such one-two punches are relatively new in TV advertising, aimed at retaining today's viewers with their short attention spans.
All four ads talk about Anderson … and none mention Pignanelli.
The most lively Anderson spot is a take-off on the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album cover. The ad has four guys strolling across a street crosswalk, with a white-suited person a la the late John Lennon leading the way.
Anderson has Paul McCartney's place, third in line walking in bare feet. (The hope, no doubt, is that people won't think Anderson has mysteriously died and an impersonator taken his place, as was the false but widespread rumor about McCartney after the 1969 release of "Abbey Road").
Actually, this Anderson ad, with the mayor carrying a bright orange flag, touts his efforts to make pedestrian crosswalks safer.
"I don't much like most campaign TV spots," said Anderson. "We wanted to do something different, add a little levity" while still tying it into "one of our most successful programs."
Will younger Utahns get the Beatles/"Abbey Road" reference, or will some wonder what the heck Anderson is doing walking across the street in his bare feet with some longhairs?
"I actually thought about that, so I asked some young people about it. They all knew 'Abbey Road,' one of the most famous and wonderful album covers of all time," Anderson said.
And now that California has the Terminator as governor, is Anderson going to be the new enforcer in Salt Lake?
In another new spot, Anderson who usually smiles in his re-election ads walks down a dark, wet alley onto a street, with the announcer saying crime is down over the past four years especially violent crimes on the city's west side. Anderson, wearing a trench coat and scowling, looks like he's ready to pull a gun.
Anderson said campaign advisers are actually talking about pulling that ad, some believing it is too sinister and sets a "wrong tone" for the overall "upbeat" campaign. Some worry "I may actually scare people with that ad," Anderson said.
The ad counters Pignanelli's claims, made in several printed brochures, that crime is up in the city.
Statistics provided by the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification show that violent crime is down in the city over the past several years. Overall crime rates, which include burglaries and petty theft, also decreased in 2000 and 2001, but total crimes went up slightly in 2002. So far in 2003, rates of some crimes are up, others down, reports show. So basically both camps can pick what yardsticks they want in their crime-fighting advertisements.
Pignanelli's baseball-themed ad asks why Salt Lake City isn't winning, then goes on to feature a number of current and former community leaders saying that Anderson and his management team have struck out, given up and quit. Speaking on screen are current City Councilman Eric Jergensen and former Utah House Minority Leader Dave Jones, among others. Jones reminds citizens that Anderson, in a three-way primary race, didn't get over 50 percent of the primary vote. Thus voters want a change, says Jones.
Saying Anderson's team has "quit" reminds voters of the turnover in Anderson's staff and top administration officials in his first year in office something Pignanelli criticized the mayor for during this summer's primary campaign.
Said Pignanelli: "Part of (this first TV ad) is introducing me to those who may not have followed the race. The video version of Frank, if you will. It talks about one of my strengths being a team player, but leading the team, too. And we're hinting that there hasn't been much team play in City Hall. And so a majority of (primary) voters want a change."
Anderson says the Pignanelli ad paints "a totally incorrect" picture of the city, especially since several national publications have recently ranked Salt Lake City one of the best places to live in the nation.