Are Campaign Ads Effective in Davis City Council Campaigns?

Sydney-VergisThe other day, I stumbled across Sydney Vergis’ campaign ad.  It’s a pretty basic 30 second ad, basically a name recognition piece.  Given Davis’ position in the market, one has to rely on doing cable ads on Comcast to reach Davis vmioters.  Buying into the Sacramento market is hugely expensive.

So that leaves cable which while cost effective, I just wonder how effective the ads really are.  More on that in a moment.

The piece itself is basically a name recognition piece, Sydney Vergis looks straight into the camera and gives a 25 second intro to herself.

Here’s Vergis ad that has been uploaded onto Youtube:


Sydney Vergis will bring professionalism and enthusiasm to the Davis City Council.


I’ve had extensive work experience in land use planning and municipal financing.  I’ve enjoyed being an active member of the Davis community and I look forward to continuing my service as a member of the Davis City Council.  I believe that the true way to solve problems and to plan for our future is through collaboration between the council and the community.  On June 8th, please cast one of your votes for me.


Vote Sydney Vergis for Davis City Council.

This is her basic pitch.  But even in her basic pitch, she’s a bit misleading.  When she talks about extensive work experience in land use planning and municipal financing, it is at best a strange definition of extensive.  She worked for no more than two years in Sutter County as a land use planner.  There is a note in the Sutter Blog that she made her first presentation on March 27, 2008 to the Sutter County Board of Supervisors, a little over a year later, she would be gone and back at UC Davis in graduate school.

The point here is she’s 27 years old.  I think of extensive as 20 to 30 years.  She has something on her resume.  I have no problem with young people running for council, but don’t act like you extensive experience because there are people who have more experience than Ms. Vergis has years on her life.

You want to cite professional experience, both Rochelle Swanson and Joe Krovoza have similar professional experience except it goes back at least ten years, not two.  Ms. Swanson is a land use consultant.  Mr. Krovoza has worked at the transportation research center for a number of years.  Jon Li has been active in this community longer than Ms. Vergis has even been alive.  Experience, she may have some experience, but it is trumped by her competitors.

That point aside, I have to question the effectiveness of an ad of these sorts.  Since Sydney Vergis gets to cite her extensive two year experience as a land use planner, I should cite my more extensive four year experience writing a dissertation that ended up as a Masters Thesis.  It was on the impact of Senate Campaign ads.

For a race of this sort, name recognition is often decisive.  But do enough people watch cable TV ads for it to make an impact?  We all know what a Snuggie is, right?  Or at least those of us who watch cable on a regular basis.  That is a pretty memorable ad however.  This one is fairly easy to miss.

We have a history of some of these campaign ads on cable, Measure P ran one, Mike Levy ran one, Sydney Vergis ran one in 2008, Measure W ran one.  Of those, Measure W won.  That was the school parcel tax.  That campaign probably was going to win anyway.  Measure P was probably going to lose regardless.  And Mike Levy finished better than expected as did Sydney Vergis.

So of the four ads, really not much of a sample, we are not left with much to conclude.  I suspect the good finishes of Vergis and Levy had more to do with the people they were running with, than the TV ads.  So I suspect, though I cannot prove it, that campaign ads are not going to make or break a candidacy.

If people were asking my advice, I would say forget about running expensive ads and get out and walk door-to-door.  That is the best way still in Davis to meet voters and ensure your message comes across.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Greg Kuperberg

    “Miss” Vergis? You’re kidding. Have you started sporting a cane and a top hat? At least you didn’t call her “Mrs. Anthony Eggert”.

    And as for land use experience, yes Ms. Swanson has that experience — in the wireless industry. To be honest, I think that Ms. Swanson would be okay as a member of the city council. But then, I’m not as upset as some about cell phone towers.

  2. Greg Kuperberg

    Oh sorry, I forgot that they aren’t married. Even so, on the Ms. question ([url][/url]), even William Safire eventually changed his mind.

  3. Greg Kuperberg

    David, I have no criticism of how Ms. Swanson operates as a land use consultant for the wireless industry. Really, I don’t even know. The fact remains that cell phone towers are only a certain kind of land use.

  4. David M. Greenwald

    I’ll try to post it later today, Elaine.

    Greg: Understood. Just trying to make the point, my objection to NewPath was the arrogant way in which they acted in contradiction to established Davis ordinances and policies not that they attempted to put a cell network into town.

  5. biddlin

    I’m also a fan of the door to door campaign, but I’d think David would be wary of the possibility candidates might encounter city workers and union members, who might try to sway them with a glass of lemonade or a dish of ice cream. As for the experience issue, I haven’t looked at my resume from 1978 in a while, but I might have over-emphasized my experience a little bit.

  6. stevem

    It seems clear to me that “Miss” was intended as a diminutive.

    It’s shameless to invoke the marital status of a candidate unless it has a strong relevance (as for example in discussing co-ownership of a controversial local business). It’s shameful when it’s only applied to women.

  7. roger bockrath

    ” Since Sydney Vergis gets to cite her extensive two year experience as a land use planner, I should cite my more extensive four year experience writing a dissertation that ended up as a Masters Thesis. It was on the impact of Senate Campaign ads.”

    David, it sounds here like you are comparing your credentials with Sydney’s. Which brings me to the question, With this huge need for somebody on the council who understands the budget , and the need to actually negotiate with employee groups in order to get control of it, why are you not running for council?

  8. Doug Minnis

    I have particpated or watched Davis city council elections since 1960 (Mc Murdy beat Hatrz that year). From that day forward there has been the question of what works . Should we spend money on match books( everyone smoked in those days) or lawn signs- how many or how about endorsements and who should we get? Or not accept? All the discussion of what works is tainted by winning or losing. If you win the campagain techniques used are winners.( I was still a match book fan long after smoking was no longer fashionable). I am not going to make book on any technique. However, in Davis candidates are smart as heck so it matters little what they say or do as they know their audience and play to it. There are strong themes in Davis community politics and there are supporters of these themes. I no longer pay any attention to anything said or done to get elected. I just look at where the money is coming from and what theme supporters are candidate supporters. Five will get you ten the supporter lists will be mssing some familiar names. Kiss of death support!

  9. Avatar

    Maybe they should print up some very expensive mailers like the Vanguard did , kill a couple hundred trees , just to have them not read and tossed into the recycle bin , just like I did with my Vanguard mailer .

    Sydney Vergis is green , smart , and a great fit for the Davis city council .

  10. roger bockrath

    Avatar, that “very expensive” mailer is how I was introduced to the Vanguard, and boy am I glad that I received it! I think it’s important to get as many people as informed as possible coming up on this next council race. And the Vanguard is doing a fine job, as witnessed by the brilliant people who express their opinions here!

  11. civil discourse

    Part of that ad is from the 2008 version, when she had little name recognition. They just updated it for 2010 at the end. How much does it cost to run on Comcast?

  12. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Are Campaign Ads Effective in Davis City Council Campaigns?”[/i]

    I think the first candidate to ever go on TV with ads was Julie Partansky. (It’s possible someone like Rosenberg did so earlier in the 1980s when I was not living in Davis.) I think [b]Miss[/b] Partansky’s ads worked for her. They got her name recognition that she otherwise would not have had. And in her ads, in which she rode a bicycle (or was it a pedicab?), viewers who may have had a perception that she was not a serious candidate were disabused of that notion.

    In effect, a TV ad done right is a more personal version of the lawn sign: it gets the candidate’s name out there.

    [i]”From that day forward there has been the question of what works . Should we spend money on match books (everyone smoked in those days) or lawn signs- how many or how about endorsements and who should we get?”[/i]

    My amateur analysis of what wins a campaign is [b]net positive name recognition.[/b] That is, the more people who know your name (minus those who think of you in a negative light) the more votes you are going to get.

    In order to achieve high name recognition, I think the early endorsements of well-connected people in Davis is the most important step (and the highest hurdle for those who are not well known).

    The endorsements lead to campaign cash; and that pays for advertising which leads to more campaign cash and higher name recognition; which leads to those connected to the well-connected endorsers coming on board and giving some more campaign cash; which leads to more lawn signs and more name recognition among those in Davis who will vote but who are not connected to any campaigners or endorsers, but who are familiar with the names of the top endorsers.

    The reason why incumbents tend to win, of course, is because they have high name recognition and can use that to attract campaign contributions and use those to increase their positive name recognition.

    The risk for incumbents (and some challengers) is that they also have negative recognition, due to posiitons they have taken or maybe poor personal interactions with some voters who once supported them. I think in cases where incumbents have lost, part of the explanation is that while in office, the member of the council lost the support of his or her earlier key endorsers.

  13. rusty49

    “Sydney Vergis is green , smart , and a great fit for the Davis city council .”

    And I’d like to ad:

    Sydney Vergis is a developer’s dream candidate,
    a Saylor, Souza and Asmundson clone.
    New housing projects will always be on her slate,
    building on farmland she’ll most likely condone.

    Peripheral growth will be on her docket,
    hopefully she lets Davis know of her views.
    I’d hate to have another candidate in the firemen’s pocket,
    then hear they got a great contract on the news.

  14. davisite2

    I seem to remember similar dissembling inflated campaign resume “facts” in Vergis’ first run for the Council…something about being chosen to be President of some UCD Democratic Club…membership 6. DPD, do you remember the details?

  15. Daniel

    [quote]“It’s shameless to invoke the marital status of a candidate unless it has a strong relevance “[/quote]

    Feel free to call me “Mr. Watts (who is single)”. I don’t mind.

  16. davisite2

    The picture on their website shows 8 “tree volunteers”. This sounds about right, as I remember it, for the entire membership that “elected” Vergis their leader. Note that Ruth Asmundson is their Governers Office Sponsor and all of the Davis Council “usual suspects” whose patrons are developer interests are listed as Governors Circle sponsors.

  17. Justwonderin

    Hmmm… From her website:

    * TREE Davis- Vice President, Board of Directors
    * City of Davis- Business and Economic Development Commission, member
    * City of Davis- Tree Commission, former member
    * Yolo County Young Democrats- former Chair, former Vice Chair
    * Davis Democratic Club- Board Member (2009)
    * Tuleyomne’s 2008 “Green Summit- State of the Environment Conference”- Steering Committee Member
    * International House 2008 Harlem Ambassadors annual fundraiser- Chair
    * Rotary International: Davis Sunrise Chapter- Paul Harris Fellow
    * Lower Feather River Watershed Assessment Technical Advisory Committee- Member (2008-09)
    * Sutter/Yuba County Employee’s Association Local #- Site Rep (2008-09)
    * Cal Aggie Alumni Association

  18. davisite2

    With the exception of an alternate on the Tree Commission, her website resume offered little opportunity for the Davis voters to come into contact with Vergis “in action” and make a determination as to her qualifications to be their Council representative. Her Davis “boardroom” activities and her membership on regional committees do not tell the voter anything about her abilities or agenda for our community. She continues to steadfastly fend off any attempt to get beyond her safe campaign platitudes. Vergis apparently believes that she can win a seat on our Council soley on name recognition and the endorsements of the Davis political Establishment rather than offering the voters an understanding of who she is and where she stands on critical Davis issues. We’ll see in June if she was correct.

  19. rusty49

    “rather than offering the voters an understanding of who she is and where she stands on critical Davis issues.”

    But we do know where she stands, all you have to do is look at Saylor, Souza and Asmundson. Just more of the same.

  20. rusty49

    Has she been cornered yet on her views of Measure J (R) and how she feels about peripheral growth projects? I mean really cornered, where she had to give a “yes I’m for growth” or “no I’m not”. I think we all know the answer to that but it would be great to see her have to give a concrete answer so all of Davis knows what she stands for and can vote accordingly.

  21. rusty49

    My resume for a council run:

    Have watched many council meetings on TV
    Planted a tree in my backyard
    I recycle every week putting my cans in the recycle garbage can
    Headed a political discussion at G Street Pub well bellied up to the bar
    Davis High Alumni member
    Vice chairman Davis political club, 2 members, wife is chairwoman
    I’m very green, picked up a wrapper on F st. last week

  22. Siegel

    Lamar was actually active and engaged in the community before he ran for council the first time. Almost all of Sydney’s resume is stuff she did in the last two years to create a resume. But a lot of people have seen how thin her experience really is. For instance, yes she has served on the Business and Economic Development Commission, but some of her colleagues told me she never actually contributes to their discussions. I have heard of more than one occasion where her experience is listing but in fact she didn’t do anything. A friend of mine is on the Davis Democratic club and they told me that she had been named to edit the newsletter but had to basically be fired after a year because her work was not up to snuff. She was putting out four pages of nothing. Lamar had done a lot of substantive work when he was on the parks and rec and also the open space commission. The two to one ag mitigation that was put into place when he was on the council was one of the things he helped to get through.

  23. davisite2

    We all know that Sydney Vergis did as well as she did in her first run for the Council SOLELY because she was “riding the coattails of her running-mate, Ruth Asmundson who, after a lifetime of REAL service to the Davis community,had a loyal voting base. The real question is, will those same voters still vote for Sydney Vergis and ignore her questionable abilities, inexperience and a dearth of a significant history of involvement in our community without Ruth as her running- mate?

  24. Ishmael

    Brian: Sorry. I wasn’t aware of Lamar’s experience on the commissions. The point of my comment was that youth and a relative lack of experience aren’t disqualifying. Lamar seems to be a solid, articulate, diligent, and intelligent public servant who takes his responsibility quite seriously. In addition, he has the maturity to disagree without being disagreeable, and shows an appropriate level of respect for the office he is privileged to hold.

    The unsubstantiated hearsay is a bit out of bounds. Why stoop to smear tactics?

  25. davisite2

    ……not formally as a “slate” but as close as you can get in a Davis Council election when one candidate ,with a loyal voter base , publicly and clearly offers her “coattails” to an unknown newcomer.

  26. Siegel

    Just so we’re clear, it is not unsubstantiated. Personally I think DPD ought to look into each of Vergis’ claims to experience and expertise, I have a feeling we’ll find a lot of that rather hollow.

  27. Ishmael

    “some of her colleagues told me …”

    “I have heard of more than one occasion …”

    “A friend of mine is on the Davis Democratic club and they told me …”

    Brian: Just so we’e clear … this is unsubstantiated hearsay. Why stoop to smear tactics?

  28. Ishmael

    davisite2: My question was rhetorical. I was just checking to see if you had somehow become unhinged from the normal space-time continuum and slipped into an alternate universe in which Sydney and Ruth were on the same ballot.

    What you are essentially saying is that Ruth endorsed a political newcomer that did better than some expected. So what? Are we supposed to discount the the performance of candidates at the polls because established political figures endorse them? That doesn’t seem to be a reasonable argument.

  29. davisite2

    Interesting comment Ishmael about my comment phrased as a rhetorical comment. since it is YOU who appear to be apologizing for your comments being “misinterpreted” on this thread,e.g. your obvious attempt to bolster Vergis by attempting to compare her inexperience and absence of community involvement with Lamar Heystek. NO, my comment was actually a rhetorical question, albeit not phrased directly… will the voters who voted for Vergis last time for no other reason than the fact that she was riding on Ruth Asmundson’s coattails support her now that Ruth is not on the same ballot(?). Personally, as a Davis voter for some 30 years who feels that the Davis electorate is quite special in their intelligence and political savvy , I have little doubt about the answer to my rhetorical question.

  30. Ishmael

    davisite2: I’m pretty sure that your response qualifies as the most obtuse bit of logic that I have ever encountered on this blog.

    Regarding this statement … “will the voters who voted for Vergis last time for no other reason than the fact that she was riding on Ruth Asmundson’s coattails support her now that Ruth is not on the same ballot(?)” … perhaps I’m the one that has become unhinged from reality. In my universe, Davis Wiki shows the following election results for the 2008 election:

    Don Saylor 21.3% with 7,893 votes
    Stephen Souza 20.3% with 7,512
    Sue Greenwald 17.8% with 6,598
    Sydney Vergis 15.4% with 5,698
    Cecilia Escamilla-Greenwald 13.2% with 4,878
    Rob Roy 12.1% with 4,504

    I can’t seem to find Ruth’s name on the ballot, rhetorically or otherwise. I also can’t seem to figure out how Ruth’s magical coattails might work.

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