The ad starts by showing a little boy jumping into the pool. It ends with the implication that the boy is about to drown.
"Can't watch one child in danger? You do it everyday," the ad's caption reads. "Stop watching."
Viewers are then directed to TooSmall.com, the home of a provocative new campaign that wants people to start paying more attention to issues that affect kids. The ads will run on national news networks starting Wednesday afternoon.
It's not a coincidence that "Too Small To Fail" is being launched a week after Election Day. Matt James, president of The Center for the Next Generation, which is behind the campaign, says the group waited until election-related partisan clashing was over because "it is incredibly important that this not be seen as a partisan issue."
So far, it likely won't be. The ads were produced by Republican consultant Mark McKinnon, who advised George W. Bush, along with Jim Margolis, who advises Obama though his media firm GMMB. McKinnon says children's issues are something that "Republicans feel just as strongly about as Democrats do." And politicians on both sides of the aisle might agree the statistics are troubling: 16 million kids in poverty, more than one-quarter of children with chronic health conditions, and American students falling behind their international counterparts in math, science and reading.
But with the fiscal cliff looming at the end of this year—when $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts kick in, along with a tax hike—the issue may not stay so bipartisan.
James warns of the 8.4 percent cut to federal programs if we go over the fiscal cliff, which would mean major cuts to education opportunities for children. "We've already done some cuts with food stamps... and the cuts in education are already draconian," says James, an argument that is more likely to appeal more to Democrats. "We do not have the bandwidth to cut more programs." James believes if action isn't taken to stop those cuts, the U.S. "will pay" with more children in prison, or kids who aren't productive and so can't get jobs.
Andrew Taylor, a professor of political science at North Carolina State University, says while children are a group no politician wants to be seen as voting against, the Too Small to Fail campaign may be swallowed up by the larger fiscal cliff debate. "But people do talk about this issue in regards to the debt. People don't want to pass along a huge fiscal burden to their children and grandchildren."
GMMB is confident its ads will get people to think more about those kinds of issues.
"It had to be done in a way to get people's attention," says Jon Summers, the strategist at GMMB behind the "Drowning" ad. "We're hoping that provocative, disturbing ads will get people to look at their TV... and just become a little more engaged."