Hey, buddy, you wanna buy a billionaire? Michael Bloomberg ("Mike for Mayor") has one for sale: himself. The mogul went all the way out to Bay Ridge to stand, blazerless, on a busy street, stare right into the camera for 60 seconds, and declare himself electable. "I love this city," he said in the TV ad (there's also a Spanish version). "My experience has taught me how to get things done."
In politics, the early ads are like a first date -- play up the prominent chin, don't mention you live with your mother. Think Rick Lazio strolling the beach with his wife. Fuzzy, humanizing imagery. Time to get the voter to feel like she knows and likes this guy. Instead, Bloomberg's people chose the direct approach: no narrator, no filter, no cuts. "This isn't Fellini -- he's running for mayor," explains Bloomberg senior strategist Bill Cunningham.
If you listen to the experts, Bloomberg's decision to invite us to stare into his slightly pinched face for the duration might have been a case of his thinking a bit too far out of the box. Candidate-marketing gurus say that it's generally a good idea to reserve the "standout presenter"-style ad -- which is what the pros call just standing there and talking at the camera -- for later in the campaign, when it's time to really make an impact with the distilled-message money line (think "Read my lips" or "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"). "It could get old pretty quickly," predicts DeVito/Verdi exec Ellis Verdi, who worked on Hillary's Senate spots. "When it's successful, it comes out incredibly truthful. But if you use it now, you'll wear it out. When it's time to talk to voters later about something serious, the voters will have seen your face already, and they may not listen."
It's not politics-as-usual in another way, too. "He doesn't relate to the people," says Tony Schwartz, the adman who created the legendarily manipulative "Daisy" spot (with the mushroom cloud) that helped bring down Barry Goldwater's campaign. "Usually, the candidate says they've been listening to what people want, and those are the things he'll address."
But maybe he's selling CEO competence and not fiery populism. Or maybe he's just learning to be a politician. "He's purposefully not tackling the issues in order to remain bulletproof," says Verdi. "For a guy who doesn't want to come off as a politician, his first ad seems very political."
And he's still a plutocrat. "He's trying very hard to be one of us, isn't he?" Verdi says. "So far, his advertising isn't as good as his stump speech: At one point, he cries; he talks to people naturally." And that chin sure looks prominent.