Bill Richardson Elicits Laughs With Ads

The Associated Press
Monday, June 11, 2007; 7:30 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democrat Bill Richardson showed off a television ad Monday in an offbeat series designed to make voters chuckle, while taking him seriously as a presidential candidate.

Humor is a regular feature in television commercials, but politicians are more likely to stick to the cut-and-dried biography and issue spots.

Richardson has used some of those, too. But he is using some lighter spots to catch attention, befitting his playful personality.

So far, the strategy seems to be working. Richardson's poll numbers have risen a few points since he began advertising, although he's yet to break into the top tier.

The new spot, scheduled to begin airing Tuesday, is the third in a series that puts Richardson in a nondescript office, interviewing for president with a bored and skeptical manager. The third ad, titled "Asked You," has Richardson listing his efforts to reduce global warming as New Mexico governor.

"We passed tax credits for wind, solar and bio fuels," Richardson says. "Utility companies have to use renewable sources. And I set tough standards to reduce greenhouse emissions. President Bush doesn't follow the Kyoto Treaty, but my state does. I can do all that as president."

The interviewer interjects, "But what I asked you was if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" Richardson makes an exasperated face.

The campaign is spending about $100,000 a week on the advertising in Iowa. It plans to begin airing the new spot in New Hampshire in the coming days.

The campaign has been pairing the lighter spots with more serious commercials. For instance, the "Asked You" ad is running in partnership with a traditional-looking political spot that makes many of the same points to tout his record on energy.

Both ads make the questionable claim that "no other state has done as much as New Mexico" to fight global warming. California has been a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Richardson's commercials were produced by ad makers Steve Murphy and Mark Putnam. Putnam said they felt they could be creative with Richardson's ads because they fit his personality, record and status in the race.

"The governor has a little license to be self-deprecating and poke fun at himself when he does have such a strong record to run on," Putnam said.

But Putnam said humor doesn't always work in political advertising. "The risk is not being funny," he said.


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