A new video ad effort from the Service Employees International Union takes a cue from ’50s-era Japanese monster flicks in a swipe at John McCain. The mostly digital effort is intended to raise awareness for a day of political action the SEIU will hold this Thursday. The group is fighting tax loopholes it argues give private equity firms an incentive to buy and sell firms with little regard for workers.
“They slash wages and destroy jobs!” declares garish red text splashed across 15-second video ads. Resembling trailers for old Godzilla or grindhouse movies, the spots use footage of the classic amphibious creature crushing buildings and knocking over power lines as a metaphor for the impact buyout firms have on jobs and the economy.
“Now they’re working with powerful friends in Washington like John McCain who have vowed to keep their special tax loopholes,” notes an extended version of the video available on the July17Action.org site. The site contends buyout firms including Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR) have “slashed wages and destroyed jobs all while using tax loopholes to pay an even lower tax rate than everyday Americans on their billion-dollar profits.”
“How do you convey to the public, without having to get an MBA, what impact private equity is having on our lives?” asked SEIU spokesperson Renee Asher, who said the group chose to run a mainly digital campaign. “What online advertising allows us to do is reach more people who have a stake in what happens,” she said.
Folks searching on Google for terms such as “economy,” “greed,” “tax loopholes,” “buyout firms,” “private equity,” “KKR,” and — yes — “Godzilla,” could be shown AdWords ads for the campaign, which began July 11 and is set to run through July 17.
Some video units on sites including ChicagoTribune.com, CNN.com, NYTimes.com, Politico, and San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate are targeted by region to residents of Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Ads are also running nationally via Google AdSense on political and news sites like The Huffington Post and Washington Times, as well as liberal blogs Daily Kos and MyDD.
The goal is to get activists to participate in demonstrations in those cities, and to reach congress people on Capitol Hill. Ads were also placed in the print version of beltway magazine Roll Call.
The New Media Firm handled the creative and media planning, including placement of text and video ads.
The SEIU itself has its own critics running ads on Daily Kos. Local union, The SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, has placed ads calling this week’s SEIU hearings regarding healthcare workers a “sham” and promoting its own rally against the larger union collective.
In addition to organizing activities set for this Thursday, the SEIU is promoting an online petition supporting legislation to close a tax loophole it believes unfairly benefits buyout firms. The petition will be sent to Congress, including Republican Senator John McCain. The group supports Democratic Senator Barack Obama for President.
Demonstrations at KKR in New York, and a protest outside McCain’s D.C. office are among the real-life activities planned for July 17. The date has no special significance, said Asher, who explained it simply is a day the SEIU and partners like New York’s Working Families party agreed upon as workable to hold demonstrations.
Like the shareable video ad and an extended version seen on the campaign site and YouTube, the SEIU expects the events themselves will generate more fodder for viral video. The union group may have a political hit on its hands when protesters perched outside McCain’s office croon a ditty called “The Loophole King” to the tune of Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” Evidently the Arizona Senator is fond of the ’70s Swedish pop act. According to Asher, a video of the performance will be placed on YouTube.