Super Bowl ad touts GOP governor hopeful as 'quality guru' who seeks perfection

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Republican Perry Johnson will kick off his campaign to be Michigan's next governor with television ads on Super Bowl Sunday that introduce himself to voters as a "quality guru" who's focused on statistics and perfection.

Johnson's ad campaign is the biggest outreach step yet from the field of 13 GOP candidates who hope to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this fall. The businessman from Bloomfield Hills formed his committee to run on Jan. 27, and the Super Bowl commercials are part of a $1.5 million advertising effort that will continue until March 8.

"Meet guru Perry Johnson," the ad begins. "He's not interested in the same things that excite you and me."

The commercial focuses heavily on the 74-year-old Johnson's work in the certification and registration industry. The spot shows him with a factory setting and math equations in the background.

His businesses include Perry Johnson Registrars, Inc., which has a staff of over 250 auditors, according to its website. The site says Johnson is the author of "the best-selling definitive text" on international quality standards, ISO 9000: Meeting the New International Standards. His Super Bowl ad highlights that piece of his past.

"When your car door closes just right, thank Perry Johnson," the ad says. "When you even have a job in the American auto industry, thank Perry Johnson.

"American automobiles weren't always the gold standard. Perry Johnson literally wrote the book, introducing ISO 9000 quality standards to the American automobile industry. Statistics made our cars world class."

Toward the end of the ad, Johnson criticizes COVID-19 deaths that have occurred in Michigan nursing homes and the condition of the state's roadways.

"Can you really think of a profession more desperately in need of quality than government?" he asks at one point.

Super Bowl ads have become a hallmark of Michigan elections in recent years. Johnson's consultant, John Yob of the firm Strategic National, worked on Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder's campaign, which used a Super Bowl commercial successfully to introduce himself as the "one tough nerd" in 2010.

But the strategy hasn't always led to victories. For instance, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sandy Pensler, another candidate with whom Yob worked, ran his own Super Bowl ad in 2018 but later lost in the primary to John James, a businessman and military veteran from Farmington Hills.

Johnson is one of 13 Republicans who've formed fundraising committee to seek their party's nomination for governor in the August primary. The winner will take on Whitmer in the fall. The Democratic governor won her first term in 2018 by 9 percentage points over GOP then-Attorney General Bill Schuette.

The crowd of Republican contenders features former Detroit police Chief James Craig, chiropractor Garrett Soldano of Mattawan and conservative commentator Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores.

Craig, Soldano and Dixon each spent more campaign money than they raised during the last reporting period, a potential sign of hope for self-funding candidates in the race: Johnson and businessman Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township.

Johnson's Super Bowl ads on Sunday will appear in most markets across the state, according to his campaign. Depending on the market, viewers will see the ads during the pregame show, the game or the post-game coverage, the campaign said.

Johnson also announced he will hold a kickoff event for his campaign in Lansing on Feb. 23.