Is This The Worst Political Ad Ever?

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

When I first saw this ad, I thought it was a hoax.  I thought it was an ad someone pro-Obama put together, and deceptively issued under the name of an "official" John McCain ad.

Let’s watch the ad together (it’s a 3:00 internet ad) and I’ll go through the litany of what is terrible about it as a piece of campaign propaganda.

Now, for those who didn’t watch, here’s the ten-second summary.  It is 100% clips from the media talking about Obama and just how INCREDIBLE Obama is.  All set to the song "Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You" by Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons.  Occasionally, words appear in the ad — words like "You’re just too good to be true" imposed above an I-Love-Lucy type heart.

And that goes on for three minutes.

Now some rough stats:

  • Number of times Obama’s picture/video is seen within the ad:  at least a dozen
  • Number of times McCain’s picture/video is seen within the ad:  zero
  • Number of times Obama is mentioned specifically by name:  ten
  • Number of times Obama is mentioned by specific name or reference ("he’s a gift"):  at least 25
  • Number of time McCain is mentioned by specific name or reference: zero
  • Number of times Obama’s name appears visually within the ad:  four
  • Number of times McCain’s name appears visually within the ad:  one (at the end "Paid for by John McCain 2008")

You see where I’m going with this?

The obvious point of the ad is that the media is having a love affair with Barack Obama.  This point is made clear within the first 20 seconds.

Now here’s some of the problems:

(1)  Some of the clips clearly show media personalities being impressed with Obama (a speech he just gave, or just him). 

BUT some of the clips show media personalities complaining about the media love affair with Obama.

Doesn’t this second kind of clip undercut the entire point of the ad?  Even the most obtuse viewer is going to walk away with the impression that certain segments of the media are biased (no news there), and — yes, some in the media WILL be in favor of Obama.  But — as the ad itself shows in places — some of that bias will also be against Obama.

So in the end, what has the ad taught us about media bias and Obama?  It exists!  Both positive AND negative! 

(2)  In the course of trying to make its point about media bias in favor of Obama, the ad seems to rely on the same people (Chris Matthews weighs heavily) and even the same show from the same air date.  This is going to leave the impression, directly or not, that the supposed "bias" can’t be that bad, if all they could find was isolated incidents of it from the same cast of characters.

(3) The biggest error of them all.

The gestalt of the ad, once you get past the media-bias message, is that something really big is happening in politics today.  For the average, not politically-in-tune, viewer, the effect of this ad will enhancedramatically enchance — Obama’s mystique and image.

I mean, imagine the person not terribly interested in politics.  They happen across the above ad.  They see glowing images of Obama, and see him being compared to a "rock star" and "a gift from above".  What is such a person likely to think?

My guess?  "About time!  I think I’ll check out what all the fuss is about this Obama guy!" 

You know who the last presidential candidate was who invoked the whole "rock star" mystique?  John F. Kennedy.  Who is still well-liked.

Plus, the song underscoring it "Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You" is catchy.

(4)  Needless to say at this point, the ad says nothing — NOTHING — about McCain, good or bad.  (It says nothing BAD about Obama either, except that the media likes him, which isn’t necessarily a reflection of Obama or any of his policies). 

But the ad is so heavy-handed, it actually backfires and leaves one to ask: "Well, why doesn’t McCain generate this kind of excitement?"

Well, John?  Why don’t you?

This is a very bad ad, and I think it will go down in history as one of the worst.  How DUMB to mention your opponent’s name IN A POSITIVE LIGHT . . . . AS MANY TIMES AS YOU CAN . . . and FAIL TO MENTION YOUR OWN.  Isn’t that Political Campaigning 101?

It really leads me to ask: "What were the makers of this ad thinking?  Who was their target audience (people who hate the media, who probably aren’t in the Obama camp anyway?)  Seriously, did they focus group this?  Were they thinking at all?!?