Political Ad Aims at Funny Bone, Not Jugular

Instead of appealing to the baser instincts of voters, a county commissioner candidate in Texas tried humor to win laughs and maybe even a few votes.

Instead of appealing to the baser instincts of voters, a county commissioner candidate in Texas tried humor to win laughs and maybe even a few votes.

Most political advertising goes for the jugular. Very little political advertising aims at the funny bone. Maybe it should.

Gerald Daugherty, a Republican running for re-election in Democrat-thick Travis County in Texas, has produced a TV ad some critics are calling the cutest of this ugly political season. If Daugherty is successful, it could spark a refreshing trend.

Austin, the original “weird” city and home to the University of Texas, is a hard place for a Republican to get elected, let alone re-elected, especially if college-educated conservatives take a long vacation instead of voting November 8 because of a certain someone at the top of the GOP ballot.

Texas Monthly describes Daugherty’s ad as something more like an outtake from the TV show "Parks & Recreation” than a typical political ad. But it might just work to turn a candidate’s irritating quirk into an endearing quality.

"In the video,” the magazine says, "Daugherty earnestly opines about transportation issues, the commuter rail, jail overcrowding and tax rates to his wife and friends, all while everyone else tries to go about their daily lives. Meanwhile, Daugherty’s wife, Charlyn, explains that he 'doesn’t really have any hobbies' and just thinks about civic life and problem-solving all day long while he’s puttering around the house. 'Please re-elect Gerald,' she concludes. ‘Please.’”

The ad, in an ironic way, is positive. It sends a substantial message in a funny wrapper.

An Austin newspaper endorsed Daugherty’s Democratic opponent, claiming Daugherty can’t shut up or stop mucking around in minutia. That means his re-election ad is authentic. He doesn’t shut up or stop trafficking in trivia.

Yet, voters who pay attention to the ad are likely to smile rather than throw an old shoe at their TV. He may be annoying, but his ad is a badly needed tonic from the stress of all the rest of the political ads on TV.

Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at@GaryConkling.