Mayor’s discomfort kills law firm ads
The spots disconcert Hannemann because the featured actor is now his spokesman
Bill Brennan spent most of his career as a television reporter, so he was a natural to be cast as a TV reporter in commercials shot late last year for the law firm Leavitt Yamane & Soldner.
But then he got a new job, as spokesman for Mayor Mufi Hannemann, in January. And now those freelance commercials he helped make in hopes of earning "a little Christmas money" don't look so good.
As Brennan is increasingly identified in the public eye as the mayor's spokesman, a few people have complained that it looks like he is endorsing the firm, even though Brennan is not named in the ads.
"The mayor has been asked about it from time to time when he's out," said Brennan. "Just recently he asked me again to see what I could do about getting it pulled."
There is no ethical violation, since Brennan taped the commercials while working as a freelancer before taking his city job. And as a paid actor, Brennan has no authority to pull the ads off the air. But because of possible confusion over whether the commercials were ethical, the law firm decided to pull them off the air this week.
"If the mayor is uncomfortable about it, that's really all we needed to hear," said Tom Satriano, the Denver-based media consultant to Leavitt Yamane & Soldner who handled the campaign. "We're not here to make any waves with the mayor."
For the firm it is a financial loss because the commercials, shot on 16 mm film, were expensive to make, even if Brennan earned just a few hundred dollars for his part. Usually such ads would run for years.
And it leaves the firm's commercial campaign a bit lopsided, with one of its three partners largely missing from the limelight.
"We shot 25 commercials," Satriano said. "Five of them I can't use, and that includes most every ad that features Jim Leavitt. ... Now my campaign is Leavitt-less."
The 30-second TV spots that featured Brennan are similar to public service announcements, with him interviewing Leavitt on safety issues. Only two of those commercials have aired so far. Partners John Yamane and Woody Soldner appear in the other TV spots, which do not include Brennan and are not styled as public service announcements.
"It's unfortunate that we can now no longer run what basically are public service announcements about safety in Hawaii," Satriano added. "I had a drunk-driving ad that was going to run all through the holidays."
Brennan said yesterday he was grateful for the firm's decision.
"I really appreciate them taking that step," he said. "It's not something they had to do. For those people who might have been confused, taking these spots off the air should help reduce that confusion."