Governor Kristi Noem has a new ad campaign splashing her face on top of a new website and two attempts at video humor to recruit workers to South Dakota. The new campaign is titled “Freedom Works Here”. The campaign’s most accurate aspect is showing Kristi Noem attempting to do work for which she is not qualified:
Here’s Kristi as plumber:
…and Kristi as dentist:
In some ways, these ads are pretty good. In both videos, Noem finally sheds her cold, boring delivery and warms to the camera. Her voice and face work together to show engagement with the text. She seems to be enjoying playing dress-up and riding the humor of the concept—watch her giggly shrug in the dentist video when she says “That’s why I’m lending a hand.” In the dentist video, she works in some subtle strip-tease, shedding first the mask and then the glasses, surely thrilling her easily aroused man-fanbase.
But both videos end up sending bad messages about the Governor and the state. The plumber video concludes with the voiceover saying “South Dakota—Freedom Works Here” at the same time that the pipe bursts. The vivid watery image contradicts the vocal message. The dentist video concludes with Noem looming over the patient, drill in hand. The patient’s face shows a look of growing fear as he opens wide to take whatever Kristi is about to give but appears to be thinking, like much of the electorate, What have I gotten myself into?
I know, I know, I shouldn’t be such a hard case. Noem is just having fun, right?
No, actually, she’s spending $5 million to put her face and South Dakota’s selling points all over the country. That’s serious business, and trying to be funny or provocative just to get attention hasn’t worked well for South Dakota in the past.
And it doesn’t work well here. In both videos, commitment to the gag crowds out conveyance of the message. Freedom is supposed to be working, but the ads show us a state with an unqualified leader doing shoddy work. That message is keenly accurate, but it’s not the message Noem is spending $5M of someone else’s money to convey.