Monday, June 11, 2007

Messaging 101: The Dodd Ads

Ads, as everyone knows, are primarily messaging instruments. This is true also of political ads. U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s latest ad features his five year old daughter Grace.

The title of the ad is – do not blush – “Amazing Grace.” The referential message here is religious, though the text of the message is obscure.

In the ad, Dodd says, “I was blessed to become a first time father at age 57,” and he reminds everyone that Grace was born on Sept 13, 2001, two days after the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York.

Following a black and white photo of baby Grace, another photo shows the senator’s new family, wife Jackie and daughter Christina. This is Dodd’s second marriage.

"I want my campaign to be about all of our children,” Dodd remarks, “and the kind of world we give them." Dodd says he wants to increase the security of the country, stop global warming and "restore our moral leadership."

A following ad will picture Dodd as a young Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s, the Vietnam era. Showcasing Dodd as a man of experience, the ad will picture him with Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader before the Soviet Union was tossed on the ash heap of history by former President Ronald Reagan, the pope pictured in the ad with Dodd, Polish Solidarity leader Leck Walesa and Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, among others.

What messages are we to take from the human furniture in these two Dodd ads? One can only imagine what the pope whispered in Dodd’s ear concerning his voting record on the ban on partial birth abortion. Mikhail Gorbachev’s appearance signals what exactly: Dodd’s displeasure with regimes in Latin American – one thinks of Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua – that have patterned themselves after unsuccessful soviet states?

Dodd is not inordinately religious. Certainly he is no evangelical, as was John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” or his friend and fellow evangelical poet William Cowper, with whom Newton collaborated in writing verses for Onley Hymns, the publication in which “Amazing Grace” first appeared.

Perhaps the first ad was intended only as a celebration of fatherhood at 57, and the second as a hymn to the virtue of political experience. And then too, Grace is very cute.
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