Nasty, negative television ads with grainy, unflattering, black-and-white images and ominous music seem to be falling out of fashion this cycle.
Instead, the velvet glove is the preferred weapon. Campaigns and third-party groups are more inclined of late to make spots that stand out rather than blend in.
The first new spot is from former Gov. Tommy Thompson's (R) Wisconsin Senate campaign. The ad has $400,000 behind it, funded jointly by Thompson's campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He looks directly into the camera and personally criticizes his opponent, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D). But even as he denigrates Baldwin's policies, inspirational music plays and the ad quickly shifts to an even more upbeat tone.
As the airwaves begin to clutter, look for more ads with candidates directly addressing the camera. Third-party groups can advertise, but candidates are only allowed to appear this way in their own advertisements. Consultants say it is one of the most simple, effective ways to break through.
New Hampshire, 2nd district
Or, instead of appearing in your own ad, why not make your opponent the star?
A new ad for Rep. Charles Bass' (R) campaign has an actor playing the role of his challenger, attorney Ann McLane Kuster (D), running back and forth as the narrator describes Kuster running away from her record. While not especially witty, it is catchy — which is the point. Sources who track New Hampshire media say that least five figures have gone into Bass' ad buys this week.
The doppelganger has been a popular trend over the past week. Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) and attorney Shelley Adler (D), who is challenging Rep. Jon Runyan (R) for New Jersey's 3rd district, found ways last week to have their opponents appear in the ads without actually appearing in them.