Writings and observations

Suzanne and the Brads

I the pilot episode of Mad Men, the ad firm is challenged with developing an ad campaign for a tobacco company just as new health warnings about cigarette smoking had been released – and companies could no longer advertise on the basis that their product was safer. In fact, all the products were the same. So how to differentiate this company’s product?

Creative director Don Draper asks how the cigarettes are made. When told that, as part of the process, the tobacco is “toasted,” he stops and circles the word on a blackboard. This company’s cigarettes will be toasted. Never mind that everyone else’s is, too. This particular brand will be sold as having that favorable attribute, and will be identified in the popular mind as such.

Not to be overly flip about the just-kicking-in Democratic primary in Oregon’s 1st House district, but something of the same applies, pointed up by the arrival of Labor Day: All three main Democratic candidates, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Senator Suzanne Bonamici and state Representative Brad Witt, all hope for support from unions. And each can make a case for being a logical recipient.

And it’s why this paragraph in the Associated Press’ new profile of Avakian (profiles of the others will be following) jumped out:

“Avakian has a unique challenge to differentiate himself from Witt — another Democrat named Brad courting support and money from unions. Bonamici calls her opponents “The Brads,” and she stands to benefit if they appeal to the same constituency and split the vote.”

Who are Avakian, Bonamici and Witt as distinguished from each other, in terms that matter and make sense to Democratic primary voters? We’re about to see the process – or the attempt at least – of differentiation take hold.

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