2008 Blogging the Obamamercial (For Real This Time)
posted by October 29 at 20:00 PMon
Ok, let’s try this again, this time respecting our time zone. (Here’s what happened when I tried to make an end-run around Pacific time earlier today.)
Consider this an open thread to talk about the Obamamercial in real time, play spoiler for the rest of us if you’ve seen it already, and weigh in on whether these thirty minutes change everything or nothing.
I’ve managed not to read any east-coast reviews of the spot, so I’m looking at it with fresh eyes and will be back after it’s over to give you my two cents. But going into it, I’m wondering: Will it seem sort of 1984 (Obama’s version of this) to have the 30-minute spot playing on most major networks and several big cable channels at once? How will the live feed from an Obama rally in Florida at the end come off? What’s the ratio of white people to non-white people over the course of the 30 minutes?
Here we go… I’m watching on CBS.
And it’s over.
My thoughts: Once again, Obama’s communications and advertising team shows how pitch-perfect they can be with their messaging (and how much it helps to have plenty of millions to spend on the best and the brightest making the longest commercials).
This spot was slick without feeling slick, highly political but somehow very real, and an extremely smooth mix of lofty Obama (shown speaking at his rallies); presidential Obama (shown in front of that giant desk in his office); daddy Obama (shown pallin’ around with his daughters); husband Obama (pictured with somewhat stern-looking Michelle); middle class Obama (pictured at the kitchen table with white, working class folks); grateful Obama (speaking at some length about the influence his mother had on his education); respected Obama (the subject of testimonies by Bill Richardson, Kathleen Sebelius, Ted Strickland, Joe Biden, Deval Patrick, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and more); and hard-working Obama (shown flipping through briefing materials, deep in concentration, on his campaign plane).
The unmissable focus was on the economy and the middle class—and, visually, on Americans who clip coupons, who shop at (and even, in one case, work at) Wal-Mart, who stretch the family budget to fill up those prescription bottles and that empty fridge, and who still find time to go to a football game at night to cheer on their son.
The people whose stories Obama was narrating were clearly picked for their locations in swing states—New Mexico, Ohio, etc.—but they were so average, with their worn t-shirts and plus-sizes, that the shock of their unvarnished American-ness drew the focus away from the political calculation and toward the personal tale of economic troubles. And they were quite compelling tales. These Obama advertising people don’t mess around when it comes to reaching for your heartstrings.
Overall, there was a tremendous amount that this commercial accomplished. It discretely plugged Obama’s website, his get-out-the-vote operation, and his text-message campaign, while less discretely going over the major points of his economic proposals and a few major themes of his foreign policy posture. It portrayed him as being as comfortable commanding the military as sharing a meal with a working family. It made his unusual story and background feel familiar, safe, and even a huge asset. It cast him as a champion of the middle class. It sold his deep, smooth, empathetic voice as the one you want narrating the next four years.
The live-feed at the end was, I thought, a bit much. I don’t know how they timed it just right, the cut from the commercial to Obama closing a speech at a stadium tonight in Florida. That was impressive. But the stadium closing felt a little uncomfortable—on Obama’s end and the viewer’s—and will probably reignite the “celebrity” attack from McCain.
Still, I’d say that for the Obama campaign, this was without a doubt millions and millions of dollars well spent.
Here’s the full spot, in case you missed it:
And here’s the McCain campaign response:
As anyone who has bought anything from an infomercial knows, the sales-job is always better than the product. Buyer beware.