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AD WATCH: Assessing The Campaign Ads In Maine's Big Referendum Battles

Maine Public/file
Irwin Gratz, back to camera, talks with Brenda Garrand and Sam Surprise at Simones' hot dog stand in Lewiston in 2010.

It's not a big election year, and so not a big year for political advertising.  But ad experts Sam Surprise and Brenda Garrand have had a look at some of it and give Maine Public's Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz their assessments.

GRATZ:  I'd like to begin with item number one, which is the casino measure on the ballot. We've looked at some of the advertising from Progress for Maine, the group behind it.  Brenda, what did you think?
GARRAND:  Well, it's interesting to me. The commercials are certainly very effective. I think they're well-crafted. I think they've taken into account the voters that they're going to need to influence. I think the look, sound and feel of the commercials are voiced by a woman, who typically oppose casino gambling more often than men do. I was kind of interested, Sam, that there was a Mi'kmaq [or Micmac] Indian who was brought forward to speak about the issue, even though I'm not entirely convinced there's any sort of formal relationship from a revenue-sharing perspective for any of the Native American tribes in the state.
SURPRISE:  And the inference is that there is an economic benefit to the Indians and to our state.  I did find it odd, and a little uncomfortable, that it appeared so rote - it was not a very spontaneous interview.  It  looked to me like he was reading off a teleprompter, and I think, to me, that undermined its authenticity.

GRATZ:  All right, let's talk about Question 2 - this is the Medicaid expansion proposal, and, once again, we start off with the proponents who have created a video advertising campaign.

SURPRISE:. They are beautiful.  They also use a woman's voice, and they're shot beautifully in settings that tap into seniors, that tap into people who are in hospital situations getting care. It's a very thoughtful type of presentation.  There's no chinks in the armor - it's smooth, it's beautiful, and it looks like a lot of people are going to benefit.

GARRAND:  I think it's always useful when you bring to the fore collaborative organizations, whether it’s the AARP or whether it's the Maine Hospital Association, when you're talking to a registered nurse from Auburn, when you're listening to a woman who's been affected by a chronic condition and falls right in that donut hole between not making enough and not making too little to be able to have the services that she needs.

SURPRISE:  And being too young.

GARRAND:  And being too young – exactly right.

SURPRISE:. I do believe that AARP did not endorse it - they took a quote from AARP with a comment. And at the end, where the endorsements are from the organizations, AARP was not part of that. So there's a little trickery there.

GRATZ:  Again, the opposing arguments, very hard to find out there.

SURPRISE:  As is often the case, it's up to the voters to do their homework, to go see how much, what kind, of benefits there are going to be. Because there's certainly a lot of negative press against it.  Whether it's from politicians or from pundits, there seems to be a fair amount of chatter about why it's not good for us - from our own governor's seat right on down.

Coming up Friday, Garrand and Surprise take a look, among other things, at ads that have appeared for the "No" side in the casino campaign.