Elect Esrati to Congress, because, well, his TV spots cost less

You won’t see this TV commercial for my campaign on TV. Nope, won’t happen. Because that costs a lot of money, and I’m refusing to take money from the “Big Money” people. So, instead of selling my soul (and your representation) to special interest groups, political action committees and big business, I’m going to keep as much of my campaign digital and free.

Soon, we’ll have campaign literature for you to print out at home, signs you can print out to put up in your office or store, and other ways to share my message.

We’ve called this spot “Big Money — Big Media” and it features me (we can’t afford actors and big crews) and my dog (she works for biscuits). It was filmed yesterday (Jan 7, 2008) in beautiful historic Woodland Cemetery just blocks from my house.

A few people who read the script, didn’t think I should have the funny bit at the end- but my take is: political ads are mostly boring, full of bulls*-t and not particularly worth watching more than once- hopefully, you’ll think this fun enough that you might choose to share it. Let me know what you think in the comments.

If you want to download this to your iPod/iPhone or iTunes:

complete text of ad:

I live in the shadow of Woodland Cemetery
It’s where I like to walk and reflect.
The media will tell you my campaign for congress is as dead as the occupants of these hallowed grounds since I won’t raise millions for my campaign chest, because I won’t accept contributions from corporations, political action committees or special interest groups.
Big Media hates candidates like me- because “real politicians” spend lots of money to run their ads.
Me, I’ll stick to YouTube. It’s that kind of practical wisdom that I think we need in Washington.
The media will tell you that I can’t win.
They probably would have told my most famous neighbors that they couldn’t fly either… and we know how that turned out.
Media endorsements are nice- but for me, the most valuable part of my morning newspaper is still the bag it comes in. (me picking up dog poop in the bag)

Title slide:
Elect Esrati. Com
Honest. To a fault.

I’m David Esrati, and I wrote, edited and starred in this spot myself. So of course I approved this message.

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28 Responses

  1. Melissa January 8, 2008 / 6:41 pm
    “Honest. To a fault.” still makes me giggle, because it’s perfectly self-deprecating. And your co-star? Is completely adorable.

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  2. Teri L January 8, 2008 / 7:43 pm
    Hilarious. Love the b&w, the lumberjack shirt; in the cemetery? Clever. I agree w/ Melissa- your dog is adorable. Refreshing to see a politician willing to allow themself to get upstaged by a co-star.

    BTW, my news bags get used for the same purpose. Thanks DDN!

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  3. J.R. Locke January 9, 2008 / 3:19 am
    Very well done Mr. Esrati. Question, have many PAC’s, Corporations or Special Interests come knockin at your door?

    Also I think this fascination with the Wright Brothers is just bit disturbing. I mean flying is cool and all but have we had no one else to hang our hat on in Dayton in 100 years? Plus doesn’t one of the Carolina’s claim the Wright bros too?

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  4. Kurt Buddendeck January 9, 2008 / 3:19 am
    David–I linked to the post on mentioned above re: the “honest to a fault” tag, and it covers a lot of ground that I don’t need to re-hash–meaning, it makes good points and addresses some key initial concerns about “electability” vs. “likeability”. This is funny in that it echoes a recent question addressed to Hillary Clinton about whether her lack of “likeability” was an issue for her in the election. She turned it to her advantage by responding humorously and feigning being wounded by the assertion. I think you’d do well to respond to your critics, some of whom are your friends, and hit the likeability matter right off the bat while simultaneously pre-empting “ninja-boat” attacks that are waiting in the wings until you have sufficient profile to merit deploying them. And here-in is where You Tube can be played to its fullest potential. More on that in a minute.

    “Trying to be more likeable” would be hypocrisy. Instead, be more saavy. Honesty is not always the best policy, and it has a limited role in politics. Honesty is different from being “genuine”. People vote for genuine because they can relate to it. Genuine is the people’s “honesty”. It got W into office and kept him there. People believe they can trust others that they feel are genuine. As soon as someone promotes themselves as “honest”, people mistrust them, because it is not the place for people such as salesman or politicians to be honest. They sell things or they get things done (or not) and are judged according to how much they sold or did or did not get done. A political leader must get things done. If they are honest but unable to accomplish change because of their ideals, than they have not served the people. Their honesty did not represent a value because it did not accomplish anything, or perhaps it became an obstruction to negotiation. This is true in relationships as it is true in the office as it is true in, I must believe, in congress or anywhere else there is governance, because it’s all “politics”.

    “Honest. To a fault.” does not represent a benefit to the voter. I think many people would ascribe that quality to Ralph Nader, and look how his own people turned on him when he ran for office in 2004. His former supporters recognized that his own noble beliefs and living his convictions by running for office were not in the interest of the people; any statement made by his running would pale in comparison to the impact of an election lost by a narrow margin, where a small number of votes actually mattered. So in running for office, you might ask yourself, how will you work with those whom you disagree? How will you work with those whom you’ve been openly critical? How will you create consensus among chaos? Pure honesty will not do this. Will you compromise? Will you bend? Or is it nobler to break than to settle for less than the ideal. People need to know this if they believe there vote is valuable and you are asking them for it.

    Regarding the spot and You Tube: You Tube is young and hip and funny and short. The phenomenon of “viral video” is driven by small hooks that are readily grasped and infectious in their spontaneous humor, wonder or disgust that they create and which the viewer feels compelled to immediately share with others. Your previous fifteen minutes of fame is associated with a ninja mask and your unconventional commitment to transparency of community government. Ditch “Honest. To a fault.” It’s negative in it’s conclusion. Your strength is your Achilles heal. Instead, find some local urban free-runners who are looking for exposure and accordingly work for free on the basis of being a part of the next viral video phenomenon. Use video of them, with you trying your best to imitate their amazing gymnastics (it will be funny for being self-deprecating, a “likeable” trait). These free runners (whose sport is also called “Ren Parkour” if I’m not mistaken, from it’s French originators) are a metaphor for swift and dynamic change. The music over the images is electronic, it makes the listener want to move like the runners. These masked amateur acrobats are the harbingers of a new hero on the local political horizon, a worthy challenger to Turner and his Tae Kwon Do school [which he saw fit to open in Bellbrook instead of the city of which he was mayor–this is Turner’s “Swift Boat” since he didn’t believe enough in the city’s economic viability to risk opening a business downtown]. The video concludes with the unmasking of the last urban free runner, who is none other than . . . David Esrati–the People’s Ninja!!!
    [If you really want to be campy, have your dog following behind you as you run through the city]. That would be funny. That would be memorable. That would be worth forwarding and even getting mentioned on morning talk-shows in other cities because of it’s unconventional but highly appropriate use of humor, democratic media and Blair Witch Project thrift to generate buzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . .

    But hey, what do I know. I’m just a bike mechanic livin’ twoforty on the WC, beeeotch. Love ya.

    The Kurtmeister

    PS. Remember that time I suggested marketing caffeine laden taffy to children? I was only half-wrong. It should be a caffeine-ritalin blend. Call Airheads back, tell ’em we’ve got the winner . . . .

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  5. Jim Crotty January 9, 2008 / 8:44 am
    Outstanding ! Classic Esrati. I love the line about the “daily paper,” and couldn’t agree more. Good for you David. It’s essential to find the humor in just about everything. Life can be pretty damn depressing if you don’t.

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  6. David Esrati January 9, 2008 / 9:31 am

    Kurt,
    Thanks for the advice- it’s pretty obvious you have too much time on your hands.
    I won’t be doing any free-running for a few weeks thanks to a hockey injury to my ankle.
    I’ll work on “Genuine” just for you.
    If Turner wants to bring up Ninja- he can bring it big. 5 courts said he was wrong- I’d like the people to know it too. Had the media got the story right, I should have been the hero. No clue at what “livin’ twoforty” means- but I do know that WC stands for West Coast and not Water Closet.
    Thanks Jim- make sure to favorite it and rate it on YouTube- and post it on your blog as well.

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  7. Juan January 9, 2008 / 1:11 pm
    David,

    I think that Kurt is right about the Ninja thing. You need to bring it up before MT does. That way you’re on the offensive instead of the defensive. I’ve told you before that the “Ninja thing” will be an easy target for your opponents (JM or MT).

    By the way, I do like the cemetary ad. Very creative! You will need to budget some money for more traditional media though. I’m sure there are a ton of potential constituants (including my parents) who don’t have access to YouTube.

    Later,
    Juan

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  8. David Esrati January 9, 2008 / 1:35 pm

    I’ll have the Ninja thing ready to go in a few weeks.
    As to reaching your parents: Juan, I expect you to tell them- walk them to the computer- download it to your ipod (that’s coming soon).
    If you want to see commercials on broadcast- send money.

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  9. Ernie Schenck January 9, 2008 / 3:19 pm
    David. You just left a comment on a post I did a few days ago regarding your campaign. In it, you say to my readers, “Go ahead. Tear it apart.” And some of them might. As for me, this is terrific. I totally love its simple and starkly authentic tone. You are the anti-Mitt, David. Seriously? The alleged political advertising experts in Washington could learn something from this. Gee, do ya think?

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  10. David Esrati January 9, 2008 / 3:31 pm

    Ernie- THANK YOU.
    Maybe if I can’t get to Washington as an elected representative, I can get a job making ads for the honest ones.
    To have praise from the man who wrote “The Houdini Solution” may be the best contribution I can receive.
    For those of you who don’t know what “The Houdini Solution” is: see this post: http://esrati.com/?p=478

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  11. Juan January 9, 2008 / 4:24 pm
    What’s an ipod? I remember bracheopods from geology class, but not ipods. :(

    Seriously though – my parents don’t actually live in OH-3, they’re going to be voting for Hobson’s replacement. But my point is that you can’t rely totally on a high tech campaign as you have many potential voters (ie – the poor and disenfranchised) who don’t have access to the technology required for your campaign material.

    You MIGHT get lucky and get some good coverage for your innovative campaign from the local new stations, but you’ll need to convince all 4 of them (2, 7, 22, 45) to cover you at some point and then you’ll get 90 seconds on each of them.

    As far as sending you money – it ain’t gonna happen. Even though I think your heart is in the right place, most of your ideas are waaaaaay too far to the left for my liking. You’re the type of guy that I wouldn’t mind having a beer with (if you drank), but I don’t see me voting for you, even as much as I dislike Turner. Sadly, I may not even cast a vote for congress in November because of this.

    I will keep critiquing your ideas and offering you feedback. I hope that you would agree that, even though I may disagree with you on most political points, my posts to your blog have been respectful, polite, and even somewhat well thought out. I would like to see someone give Turner a run for his money if for no other reason than to send him a message. Quite frankly, I talked to someone from their office about your campaign a few weeks ago and the (very friendly and polite – NOT!) lady that answered the phone just snickered when your name is mentioned. That crap is totally uncalled for.

    By the way – CONGRATS on the nice feedback from Ernie!! That’s really something.

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  12. Juan January 9, 2008 / 4:25 pm
    David – One more thing… Even though I probably won’t vote for you in November, you did get my vote when you ran for mayor! See, I’m not all bad! ;)

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  13. David Esrati January 9, 2008 / 4:28 pm

    Juan, I hope you reconsider and think that a vote for me, is a vote in the right direction for honesty in politics if nothing else.
    Not taking money from PACS. Special Interest Groups, Corporations etc. is a huge challenge to the status quo.
    Thanks for the vote- oh, about 16 years ago…

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  14. yvan melnikoff January 10, 2008 / 1:31 pm
    David,
    I watched and listened to the piece more than a couple of times. My overall impression was mixed. The tie-in to the Wright brothers works for me on the point of working towards what seems unreachable and may be a campaign jumping off point for variations on a theme. It’s not a city branding ploy. Populist appeal is unquestionably your bread and butter, the solitary man in “everyman” clothes, the dog, the setting and the B&W production are all very effective visually,…and here is where I have to parse a few nits with you. I found the copy was alternately extremely effective, engaging and equally victimized and conspiratorial in tone,…big media “hates” candidates like you,…the media will tell you,…would substituting “conventional wisdom” or “old school politics”, or “political machine campaigns” have really compromised the content?

    ,…and you won’t accept donations from any special interest groups,…David while I AM A FAN and supporter of urban guerilla tactics I think a well rounded attack using as many weapons as are available is eminently preferable to leaving your point man out by himself blazing away. Everyone has a special interest or they wouldn’t bother voting. “Newpolitik” doesn’t have to repudiate every element of its’ historical antecedents for credibility’s sake. There’s something to be said for blending a larger force into an indigenous population and displaying an understanding of the existing culture. Ask the guys that invaded Iraq.

    The humor at the end would have been extremely effective if the message had been tighter, stronger. I think it chops your message off at the knees. If I had no understanding of your ethos, (as will be the situation with voters who know nothing about you and see this piece),…my overall impression (from the video) would be that I had encountered an irreverent, good natured (and completely satirical) bit of political theatre.

    Yvan Melnikoff

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  15. gene January 10, 2008 / 3:57 pm
    I liked it – but it really does not point out what you stand for…… I know, i know, i know, people are supposed to get on your blog and read about you, but first impressions and getting a person’s attention are the most important things, and people are flat out lazy – the hardly vote, so what makes you think they will read about you. You have to tell us about YOU and YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS. It is easier that way.

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  16. David Esrati January 10, 2008 / 4:13 pm

    Gene- one idea per ad.
    Yvan- the point that you watched it several times says to me it worked.
    As to making it stronger- maybe you should open a political campaign consultancy, and help candidates with PAC money put together better spots?
    That guy Ernie, up above- he’s judged more ads than you’ve seen in a lifetime. He said some pretty nice things about it here: http://eschenck.typepad.com/ernie_schenck_calls_this_/2008/01/what-esrati-kno.html
    I’m pretty happy with it. There will be more- and they will be even better.
    Please remember to give it a rating on youtube- and link to it.

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  17. Juan January 10, 2008 / 5:26 pm
    David,

    Once again you are showing that you are going to be your own worst enemy in this campaign. JM or MT won’t have to defeat you – you will defeat yourself!

    Yvan presented to you a well written and well thought out critique of your ad. There was nothing sarcastic or rude anywhere in his post. It was all very constructive – offering praise, criticism and advice. And you responded with “maybe you should open a political campaign consultancy, and help candidates with PAC money put together better spots?” This sarcasticly implies that you think are smarter than he is and that his feedback, which you specifically ask for in the main post, is worthless. And then you try to use Ernie’s kind words regarding your ad as a further defense? Is this what you’re going to do any time someone disagrees with you? “Nah, nah, nah – I don’t care if you like it or not because someone else thinks I’m great!” Hardly the response or behavior that one would expect from someone in congress. To use your favorite word – Lame, David, very lame!

    Someone (maybe even me) pointed out your propensity for name calling in a previous topic (I think it was when your friend Joey defied your wishes by not voting “appropriately” on the gay rights thing). You admitted then that name calling was a weakness of yours. If you’re going to see this thing all the way through to November 4, you’d better get past that weakness, have thicker skin and learn to respect (not necessarily agree with, but still respect) other peoples’ opinions.

    Good luck,
    Juan.

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  18. David Esrati January 10, 2008 / 5:51 pm

    Yvan, I’m sorry.
    Juan, everyone can be a backseat driver. Me included.
    There is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that a friend gave me the day I swore in for the Army:
    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually
    in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
    Theodore Roosevelt
    “Citizenship in a Republic,”
    Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910
    I’ll make another ad. But to do that- I need donations. I’m not asking for $2,300 like my opponents, I’m asking for $5, $10, $100.
    I don’t see any other candidate in this race with an ad- or a blog. I think I’m doing OK- sorry I’ve pissed y’all off.

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  19. Juan January 10, 2008 / 8:42 pm
    Nicely said, David. And I used to have a copy of that TR quote on my own desk as well, along with your other favorite quote about progress depending on the unreasonable man.

    Even though you don’t have my vote (yet), I may contribute a whoppin’ $20 to see another ad. I’ll stop by and drop it off in 16 days.

    Buenas tardes,
    Juan

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  20. Juan January 11, 2008 / 8:30 am
    Buenas Dias David,

    I was thinking this morning that you REALLY need to get some “traditional web pages” linked to this site. I’m talking about pages that have your views on various issues. This will give someone a place to start to find out who you are and what you stand for.

    I don’t think that the average person that finds out you’re running for congress will want to sift through pages and pages and pages of blog posts to see what you’re all about.

    I know that having static pages goes against your webologist philosophy, but this is the age of the lazy consumer that wants instant gratification (ie – they want to easily find out who you are).

    Later,
    Juan.

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  21. David Esrati January 11, 2008 / 10:13 am

    Juan- Great idea. Will have it set up by Monday.
    Of course- people could just click on this category: http://esrati.com/?cat=37
    and get most of it…
    but- I’m listening.

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  22. Yvan Melnikoff January 11, 2008 / 10:37 am
    David,

    No harm,…no foul,…I expect nothing less than both barrels from any engagement with you, on ANY ISSUE!. I’m a big boy and I know how to keep my gloves up in a clinch! When it comes to something as personal as your candidacy a little extra prickly (on the side please) is easily understandable

    What you bring to the table in terms of your creative energy, the scope and practicality of the solutions you offer, unwavering commitment to open transparent process, and your frontline approach to confronting politics as usual deserves the strongest messages, delivery and support systems that can be mustered and it was to that end that I gave your message more than one viewing and feedback. BIG CONGRATS on your win with Ellen Belcher!!!

    Political consulting,…hmmmnnn how bout this,…David,…I’ll DO an AD for you on “spec”,… if you have any interest,…you know how to reach me.

    , …and I don’t know who Juan is,…but “THANKS BUD!”

    ,…in closing ,…a passing thought on “the man who is actually
    in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly,” ,…is usually accompanied by trainer, and a “cut-man” in his corner. David there are people (like Juan,…and believe it or not me too) who offer our input to cover your back “Jack”!

    If you can’t stop shooting at us,…can you at least file the hair trigger back a notch so we can get a better running start for the bunkers next time we see you turn around?!

    Yvan

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  23. Seth January 11, 2008 / 12:10 pm
    This is just a general statement:

    If something David says rates at a “10” on your “offensive meter”, I’ve learned that what he really intended was usually more around a 4 or a 5. He’s actually a really nice guy.

    It also doesn’t help that online exchanges – emails, comments, et. al. – are usually perceived in a more negative tone than the author intended.*

    I work for David. David and I share many personality traits, so I can play Devil’s advocate. Maybe David isn’t always Mr. Tact, but if he was as bad as people sometimes make him out to be, I would have put in my two weeks a long, long time ago.

    Anyway, I’m glad we’re all playing nice :)

    As several of you have suggested, we’re going to be putting up a page that provides some concrete information about his political leanings, so you won’t have to dig through years and years of posts. Stay tuned (subscribe to the RSS feed!)

    * http://www.newscientist.com/blog/technology/2007/11/dont-flame-me-bro.html

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  24. Juan January 11, 2008 / 12:44 pm
    Way to protect that paycheck, Seth! ;)

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  25. Seth January 11, 2008 / 1:51 pm
    Haha. Locked down like Fort Knox! ;)

    In all seriousness, David and I are more prone to disagreement and arguing around the office than cohesive harmony :) We both have “strong” personalities but I still manage to pay my bills.

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  26. Scott January 11, 2008 / 2:30 pm
    I don’t work for David, so no paycheck to protect :-) …

    But my family and I did live next door to David for 10 years (until a job change took us across the country), so I feel qualified to weigh in on David’s strengths, and his challenges.
    I couldn’t agree more with Seth’s “offensive meter” analogy. David is, above all, passionate. He will always weigh in on an issue, or respond to a comment, with a genuine viewpoint – no sound bites or form letters. And he’ll always let you know where he stands – no equivocating, no placating, no fence sitting. Sometimes that passion and genuine-ness come off as brusque, but David is also willing to listen, and sometimes even apologize.

    David lives what he believes:
    David doesn’t talk about Urban Renewal from a house in the suburbs – he lives and works in one of Dayton’s downtown neighborhoods (and supports the city’s tax base by employing others there too). I’ve ridden next to David on a garbage truck during many “alley sweeps”, as he spent his time and sweat to improve the appearance of our city.
    David doesn’t just talk about helping kids – he was a Big Brother for years.
    David rides a scooter, to reduce consumption of foreign oil and lower carbon emissions (and not just because it makes him look cool) :-)
    David doen’t pontificate about patriotism – he volunteered for the Army, and served in the Special Forces (something I think you need to make more widely known, David!).

    David Esrati is as geniune as they come. That may hurt him in this election…going against polished, career politicians, David’s transparent approach might appear to have some rough edges. But I’d choose David over a career politician to represent me in Congress!

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