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{Monday, January 26, 2004}


CBS unmoved by MoveOn’s ad
posted by Aaron Barnhart January 21, 2004 10:28 AM

The heart stirs as soon as the lonesome guitar music starts. From a few feet away, through a dark and dismal restaurant kitchen, we see a boy no more than 10 years old spraying off dirty dishes.

The music quickens as a procession of solitary children performs other mind-numbing adult jobs: hauling garbage, changing tires, scanning groceries. Near the end of this 30-second TV commercial, a message appears: “Guess who’s going to pay off President Bush’s $1 trillion deficit?”

“Child’s Pay,” as the ad was titled, last week won the “Bush in 30 Seconds” contest sponsored by MoveOn.org, an advocacy group that wants Bush out of office. The competition made news because two of the 1,500 commercials submitted online compared President Bush with Adolf Hitler. (MoveOn.org distanced itself from those ads.)

Indeed, if there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that making a 30-second attack ad is harder than it looks. The quality of the entries drops off sharply after “Child’s Pay,” which won both the online voting and the competition judged by a panel that included filmmaker Michael Moore and satirist Al Franken. The four runner-up commercials might play well with the Moby-Janeane Garofalo-Jim Hightower crowd, but they had all the subtlety of a Sunflower Dodge ad.

The understated “Child’s Pay,” by contrast, appeals effectively to every parent’s worst fears, even parents who will vote for Bush in November. Large budget deficits are, to many, an abstract evil. But a Dickensian vision of a future in which our heirs atone for our fiscal sins (toiling, the ad suggests, in the only jobs that haven’t been shipped overseas) hits people where they live.

You can watch the winning ads online at bushin30seconds.org. You won’t, however, see “Child’s Pay” during the Super Bowl. MoveOn.org’s $2 million buy was rejected by CBS. A network executive explained, “We have a policy against accepting advocacy advertising.”


posted by STEVE 8:18 AM