Sterling Tucker's 4 1/2-minute television advertisement had just finished its premiere public showing to an audience of Tucker workers and news persons at the campaign headquarters last week when an advertising ace for another campaign turned to an onlooker and said, shaking his head, "Not enough warmth. Not enough warmth."
Sure, there was a little of that common man touch, with Council Chairman Tucker perched in a backyard deck chair in a short-sleeved sports shirt and talking matter-of-factly about his accomplishments in the city. There was a bit of the family man image, with Tucker sitting down at the kitchen table to have breakfast with his wife and daughter before taking off for work.
The candidate looked a bit folksy, but still sounded authoritative as he chatted sans suit coat in the sunlight with a group of senior citizens and told them what the city needs now and how he can deliver it. And of course Tucket hit all of the right positions on the right issues.
But somewhere, somehow, the mini-documentary, produced at a cost of $18,000, lacked enough smiles and touches and radiant warmth to satisfy this advertising executive. The film, its cost and even the executive's response to it are an indication of the type of sophisticated, nuance-laden and at times subliminal level media campaigns that are likely to mark this year's quests for the Democratic nominations for mayor and City Council chairman.
Of the nearly $1 million that candidates in these two races hope to spend, about half is planned to finance television, radio and printed-word publicity efforts.
Each of the three major candidates for the Democratic mayoral nomination - Tucker, Mayor Walter E. Washington and Council member Marion Barry - has lined up an advertising firm with past national or local experience. Council chairman candidate Arrington Dixon has done the same.
So sophisticated and prominent have media become in politics these days that some of those in the political know consider projection of the candidate's personality nearly as important as the issues and media advertising just as important as campaign organization.
Television advertisements can be used to recast the images of candidates, to circumvent the coverage of daily news media to launch subtle - and sometimes not so subtle - attacks on opponents. Media campaigns can frame the issues the way the candidate wants the voters to see them, tell very specialized sections of the electorate exactly what they want to hear and shake all the hands the candidate has been unable to reach on the hectic campaign trail.
Already, according to one person familiar with local political advertising, researchers have determined at what time of day that all-important segment of viewers in the city - undecided voters in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary - are most likely to be watching television.
Radio advertising is perhaps a sleeper in the media field. It is much cheaper than television. A 60-second radio spot costs about $40 as compared to about [WORD ILLEGIBLE]to air a 30-second television spot in prime time. Moreover, radio can be used more selectively than television, which when purchased in Washington means buying your way into the television sets of thousands of suburban viewers who don't vote in city elections.
Not only do various ethnic and income groups have different radio listening habits. It is even possible, according to one local media expert, to determine which radio stations are listened to in which portion of which city ward at which time by simply referring to research based on listening habits by zip codes.
During the 1974 campaign, the lack of money on the past of challenger Clifford L. Alexander, the newness of electrol politics to incumbent Walter E. Washington and congressionally imposed campaign spending limitations helped to make for an election in which media played only an adjunct and minor rule.
This year, however, there is expected to be a greater availability of money and at least four candidates have media budgets that could easily surpass $100,000 - the same amount that Alexander spent for his entire campaign.
Douglas L. Bailey, president of Bailey, Deardourff and Associates, the firm handling Tucker's campaign, said that this year's District mayoral election offers an unusual opportunity for sophisticated media work because no one has to concentrate on name recognition. "There is a much greater awareness of the political personalities for the campaign and of the content and of the issues in the District than we have found in other electorates," he said.
So Bailey began the media skirmishes last weekend with a 4 1/2-minute documentary on Tucker that he said was aimed at trying to tell a "story" about Tucker and at the same time shore up the votes of some undecideds.
The Tucker story was a personality piece, he said, designed as much to project the council chairman as a human being as anything else.
The other camps are not likely to imitate' those mini-documenatries. Washington's media consultant, Hohn O'Toole, president of Eli, Inc., said such documentaries are good for someone with an ailing personality, but Walter Washington does not suffer from such a political affliction.
O'Toole, who calls himself a "communications person who does a little bit of politics on the side," said Washington's media campaign will probably be "very straight." What media might be used to do is to give Washington a chance to make his own case on his frequently criticized 10 years in office, O'Toole said. "The feeling is that the mayor has a good record that has not been exposed to the public that well."
Barry's media plans are held close to the chest by David Abramson, president of Abramson-Himmelfarb, Inc., who said the plans were "sacrosanct" and he would not discuss them before implementation.
The same is true of Carol Marchesano fo Goldberg-Marchesano, Inc., Dixon's media specialists, who refuses to detail what the organization will do until plans are completed in the next several weeks. Well-placed sources in the Dixon organization say however, that name recognition will be important in the first phase of Dixon's media efforts. "We have to make Arrington Dixon a household word," one source said.
Despite all this, Bailey said it would be wrong to assume that the fall campaigns are overdoing it. When compared to other similar races, the media budgets of D.C. campaigners are small. In Ohio, for example, ha said, the Cleveland media budget for a statewide race such as governor or senator would be about $200,000.
O'TOole said it also would be wrong to think that the election will rise or fall on media operations. Not only do "media masterminds" tend to overrate their own importance, he said, but the public can often see their acts.
"I think the era of the slick packaging of a candidate is dead," he said. "I really do feel that the era of the big sale is over. This time around I want to see a little less Madison Avenue and a ltttle more issue-oriented political advertising."