OK, this is kinda gross
So I saw this mailer on Azi Paybarah's 51st State the other day, but decided against saying much of anything before I saw the physical piece itself. That happened yesterday, so now I feel more comfortable voicing an opinion.
On every count having to do with craft - aesthetics, flow, production values, copy, down to stock choice - this piece is an absolute winner; I'd go further and say that it's the most aesthetically pleasing piece of campaign literature I've seen in this cycle. You can't see that front cover in your mail and not want to know what's inside it, that's how strong the emotional appeal is. Speaking as an adman, I have to say hats off to Team Yassky, job well done.
I'd go further and say that this piece ties in well with the prior Matzoh Man mailer, which came in for its share of (well-deserved) derision here and elsewhere, but was nonetheless probably very effective in locking up the Jewish vote for Yassky. Just ask Carl Andrews; the poor man is still carting bags'o'cash to every rabbi in the district. But there's no credible way to deny that this campaign has put out some really good direct mail.
That said, this newest effort strikes me as being in borderline bad taste. This because, while the emotional appeal is clear, and there is broad harping on Yassky's signature issue of gun control (as an aside, while the man claims to have 'written and passed' the Brady Bill, nobody who knows anything about Chuck Schumer, who actually did so, talks about that claim in anything other than varying degrees of mockery), the overall intent of the piece is not advocacy for gun control. This because that subject is not an issue in this campaign; there's really no daylight between the candidates on it, and there's no indication that voters think the issue is in the forefront, given the comparable stands of all the contenders.
Rather, this piece attempts to create the impression that Yassky has support in communities of color. Leaving the discussion of whether that is so for another time, that's a strategic objective for which the usage of a grieving mother is at odds with simple good taste. I also doubt that James Davis would have endorsed Yassky (or so people tell me who are in a position to know), but that's neither here nor there. As it is, his mother is holding a portrait of her dead son on the front of a campaign mailer; that instrumentalization of grief strikes me as deeply disturbing.
I have no doubt that Yassky is sincere about gun control, but there's more to this than meets the eye, and that 'more', to my eye at least - and I have done more direct mail and general advertising than I care to think about - borders on the exploitative. Divorced from context, there's no problem; but in the realities of this race, I have to say this is a good piece, but a cynical piece, and thus entirely in line with its predecessors and the entire campaign.
So, with all the deserved kudos for execution, I have to say that this is, well, kinda gross.