Analysis: Nikki Fried’s “Something New” TV ad misses the mark

by | Aug 3, 2022

  • Simple message combined with interesting imagery still fails to land a hard punch on Charlie Crist
  • Mannequins serving as stand-ins for past governors end up distracting from the point of the ad
  • Missed visual cues turn a promising concept into something merely mediocre
  • Fried needs much more than visually interesting ads to win the primary

Watching Nikki Fried’s new political ad, “Something New,” it’s difficult to avoid being distracted by the bizarre imagery presented on the screen: about two dozen suit-and-wig-wearing mannequins dominate the first five seconds or so of the ad. The motionless mannequins, we’re told, are meant to represent Florida’s 46 previous governors. “Some good. Some bad,” Fried tells us, before getting to the real point.

But by then, those viewers who are already unsettled by the creepy, faceless stand-ins and their ridiculous wigs are likely not paying any attention to the money line, which Fried delivers between seconds seven and nine, pointing out that the verdict on one of the governors “depends on which way the wind is blowing.”

The jab, aimed at the iconically-coiffed Charlie Crist, misses the mark – not because it’s unfair, but because the accompanying visuals don’t match what the viewer should expect in that instant: seeing a white-wigged mannequin as a stand-in for her opponent. Instead, we’re treated only to a subtle hand-wave toward a random mannequin as Fried delivers the line. It was a missed opportunity in the same way that the ad missed an easy chance to skewer former Governor Rick Scott by simply showing one of the mannequins without any wig – perfectly bald – at the instant Fried delivered “some bad” line.

Those missed opportunities underscore the deeper flaws in a campaign commercial that seemed overly focused on concept but inadequately focused on execution. And the rest of the ad similarly fails to deliver the kind of hard punches aimed straight at Crist’s mouth that Fried must deliver if she expects to defeat him at the ballot box later this month.

The rest of the ad calls attention to a handful of hot-button issues important to Democratic primary voters: abortion, inflation, and gun rights, but then Fried, speaking to the camera, only addresses two of those issues as she claims the mantle of the “only statewide elected Democrat, only pro-choice Democrat, and the only Democrat to have never taken a dime from the NRA.” The question of how she differs from Crist on the economy isn’t addressed.

The left-leaning Florida Phoenix pointed out in a separate story that the ad has other subtle messaging cues:

Without saying it outright, the ad highlights a glass ceiling left unbroken in the state — Florida has not yet had a woman governor. If she is successful in the August primary and then the November general election, Fried would be Florida’s first woman governor.

But that is, once again, part of the problem with the ad: it embodies the idiom “too clever by half” in the post-Trump era when voters expect – and reward – bold, in-your-face statements. Voters simply aren’t invested enough to take the time to seriously think about the sort of subtle messaging that might win a political advertising award, but fails to win ballots on election day.

Fried’s team may intend the ad only as an introduction of their candidate to voters who might not already know her. And in that case, the $1.5 million TV ad could prove to be an acceptable first salvo in the target markets where the ad is scheduled to run: Miami, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Ft. Myers, and Tallahassee. But time is running short, and so is Fried’s money. She has just $2.8 million left in the bank, and will need to devote as much as possible to actual ad buys and much less on renting mannequins and wigs.

View the full ad here.


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