Illinois group outpaces Engage RI in the pension commercial sweepstakes
By now, many Rhode Islanders have seen the pro-pension overhaul commercial sponsored by Engage RI, the coalition of mostly business and social service groups backing Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s reform effort. It’s a straightforward comparison-contrast spot whose 24-second message is simple: pension reform = good; inaction = bad.
For the many Rhode Islanders with just a passing interest in civic life and the nuances of a complex topic like pensions, the Engage RI commercial might be enough to make an impression.
Yet it certainly lacks the dramatic power and creativity of a 30-second spot sponsored by a group called Illinois is Broke. Take a look for yourself:
For contrast, here’s the Engage RI spot:
Engage RI’s commercial starts with a grim black and white image of the Statehouse with thunder and lightning in the background. It warns of how Rhode Island is facing $7 billion in unfunded liability, “$7000 for every Rhode Islander.” There are more stark black and white images before a narrator intones, “But there’s hope,” and the screen shifts to upbeat scenes of people working, going to school, a bobbing sailboat, and sunny vistas.
By contrast, the Illinois is Broke commercial presents an unseen figure (the State of Illinois) door-knocking a prototypical mom as she holds a daughter who looks about three years old. Let’s go to the dialogue:
State of Illinois: “Our retirement plans are $140 billion short, so we need some of your money.”
Mom: “Well, things are a little right right now. I–”
State of Illinois: “We need $30,000. You can pay $857 a year for 35 years or $71 a month, not including interest, of course.”
Mom: “Are you nuts? I’ll be 70 by the time I pay that off. And besides, I just paid my taxes.”
State of Illinois: [Ominously] “I wasn’t talking to you.”
The commercial closes with the message, “Our Children Will Pay.”
UPDATE: Via Twitter, Engage RI spokesman Jon Duffy says:
Given the emotions involved in the pension reform debate, I think the positive, hopeful tone is much more appropriate.