If you can’t vote for Brett Smiley because of where you live, or if you don’t want to vote for him because you support another candidate for mayor of Providence, at least send him your quiet thanks for lightening up a dull season.
In a year of dreary, sometimes stupid political ads, Smiley has broken through with a piece of work that plays like a splash of cool water on our overwrought selves.
It is quite the production, this 30 seconds of Smiley being Smiley. It does not stamp him the best candidate. But it sure does put him way up there in the late spring rankings for most refreshing.
He is a man having some fun with his own life. It’s an amazing concept.
If you haven’t seen this first of the Smiley TV ads, check it out for the wonderfully self-effacing way it presents the candidate.
It is brought to us by RSH Campaigns, a three-man political consulting firm in New York City. The members of RSH have known Smiley for years, so they had a pretty good idea of the material they’d be working with.
“We were throwing ideas out for weeks,” said Adam Strasberg of RSH.
Strasberg is a graduate of the New York University film school, and the 30-second Smiley ad plays a lot like a movie trailer. It gives us quick scenes and bits of dialogue that tell us the main character is a man not given to wild emotional swings.
In one scene, Smiley tells of his plan to tax guns in the same way as cigarettes. An off-screen voice asks if he is excited about the plan.
“Yes,” he says in a deadpan way that shows the excitement is totally under control.
It’s funny, it really is. There’s imagination here, and a disarming way of showing that the message doesn’t have to come wrapped in ridicule and tired poses. That’s perhaps the thing that sets the ad apart and makes it such a welcome break in the gloom.
Strasberg said the idea was to work backward and ask what if Smiley was always the man with the plan. So we get a fifth-grade Smiley with his plan for school recess and, later, his plan for the perfect family vacation.
We get Smiley’s husband, Jim DeRentis, saying Smiley is so organized he proposed on a PowerPoint presentation.
Actually, Smiley did not propose via PowerPoint. There’s some creative license taken there. There’s also a deft handling of the issue of same-sex marriage, if it is in fact an issue.
The 30 seconds end when the lights go out, with Smiley still talking about his plans for jobs, the environment …
There are months to go and a whole bunch of ads are surely in the works. It will be interesting to see if Smiley and RSH have changed the game. Their ad is getting a lot of attention. It is quirky, funny, smart — apparently attracting attention from a lot of people who could care less about who presides at Providence City Hall but who appreciate something with some wit to it.
There’s a sense of humor in this ad, and that can be a bold and tricky way to go. The message can get lost in the laughs.
Here, it works. We know what Smiley cares about and we learn only about him. We do not hear what he thinks about the other candidates. There is no tired slap and spit. There is something to think about.
We can only hope it catches on.