Analysis: Election ads go for shock effect

Parties try to shock their potential voters with scenes you don't usually see on TV.

election ads 298 88 Ch2 (photo credit: Channel 2)
election ads 298 88 Ch2
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Determining which party emerged successful in the battle for the best election commercial is not as easy as deciding which team won a basketball game. But the main criteria party strategists use when evaluating themselves are whether the commercials hit the target audience that they were seeking and made enough of a lasting impression that voters will be discussing their ads around the water cooler at work the following day. For this reason, many parties tried to shock their potential voters with scenes you don't usually see on TV. The parties that best passed the water-cooler test were Meretz, National Union-National Religious Party and Israel Beiteinu. The secularist Meretz used the unlikely combination of the Western Wall and a pair of worried sperm to hit its target audience of young voters who are considering Kadima or not voting at all. The party's ads showed a man at the Wall asking to be able to wed "Boaz" and a woman praying for her husband to give her a get, with the message that voting for Meretz is the best way to get your prayers answered. An NU/NRP ad started with a scene modeled after The Matrix with a man not wearing a kippa running through a dark hallway and seeing images of disengagement and Amona. Only when he sees the NU/NRP at the end of the hallway does he realize he doesn't have to vote for the Likud, and he starts seeing positive pictures of tractors, sunny fields, fresh baked cupcakes and a pregnant woman as the happy "new Right arises" jingle plays. After reaching the party's primary target of Likud voters with the first ad, the NU/NRP tried to reinforce its support in the religious-Zionist community with a memorable ad featuring a telenovella of a brother and sister debating whether to join an IDF that evacuates settlements. Israel Beiteinu's commercial targeted Russian immigrants with a simple message to take to the voting booth: "Nyet, Nyet, Da." No to Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima head Ehud Olmert and yes to Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. The ad was about crime, which is a problem that hits the Russian immigrant community especially hard. Two other parties that tried to use shock value were Green Leaf - with a wet lesbian kiss - and Shinui - with a secular man dragging haredim down the street to the voting booth and making them disappear by voting Shinui and not Kadima. Both ads might have disgusted many viewers, but they were ideal for their target audiences. The three major parties each employed "guest stars" to make their leaders look more presidential and palatable. Labor's ads featured former US president Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair talking about the merits of raising the minimum wage. The Likud's commercials showed Netanyahu playing chess with his father, respected historian Benzion Netanyahu, and awaiting the coffin of his brother Yoni from Entebbe. In Kadima's commercials, the star, as expected, was Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who remains the party's top electoral asset even as he lies comatose in a hospital bed. Both Labor and Likud were after Kadima voters, but they used completely different strategies. Likud attacked Olmert by questioning what he had accomplished in his political career and slamming his performance as Jerusalem mayor and acting prime minister. Labor made a point of using no negative ads, choosing instead to devote its time to introducing voters to party chairman Amir Peretz. Kadima tried to place the weight of history on Likud and Labor voters by presenting Sharon as the successor to David Ben-Gurion, and Olmert as the successor to Sharon. The first message came across but the second less so. An ad attacking Netanyahu's eyes was similar to an unsuccessful Conservative Party ad in Britain that attacked Blair. The commercials included several oddities. For instance, in the Kadima ad there is a picture situated on the wall behind Olmert's desk of Sharon dressed in his blue rancher's shirt and not a prime ministerial tie. The tie that Peretz is wearing in the Labor ad vanishes from one frame to another. Shas chairman Eli Yishai tried so hard to look like a statesman that he sat in front of not one but three Israeli flags. And Kadima's ad featured the party's top 10 candidates, with the interesting addition of Anastassia Michaeli, who is only 44th on the list but is also a blonde beauty queen. Arguably the worst ads were from Avraham Poraz's Hetz Party and the small party Oz for the Poor. The Hetz ad warned that Israelis were in danger, not from Kassam rockets but because Olmert spoke at a Shas event when he was Jerusalem mayor. The Oz ad talked about how horrible it is to be poor, but the actor in the ad who couldn't afford to buy food apparently had enough spare change for a cigarette. The fact that both ads appealed to a narrow target audience did not make them any less pathetic.