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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Blogging the Obamamercial (For Real This Time)

posted by on October 29 at 20:00 PM

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.

RSS icon Comments


I'm taping it and only Fox comes in best and I don't have cable. That said, I watched it an hour ago on you tube. Very Inspiring. The parts about health insurance and pensions are interesting.

Posted by fauxreception | October 29, 2008 8:07 PM

I love how he is getting in all his points in subtitles as well as saying them. It is like a synopsis of all the debates, speeches, etc

Posted by cosmo | October 29, 2008 8:09 PM

I'm finding the repeated themes of healthcare and the economy to be interesting. Now, I just wish Obama's plan was real universal healthcare.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | October 29, 2008 8:10 PM

it's the jangly guitar that really speaks to me.

Posted by skye | October 29, 2008 8:12 PM

My guess? This spot is all the McCain campaign will be talking about all through the end of the week. They'll use it as cover for their shenanigans, claim that his "arrogance" is causing a "sudden shift in the polls."

Something like that.

Posted by flamingbanjo | October 29, 2008 8:14 PM

For those of you without working rabbit ears, the Obamamercial is on YouTube.

Posted by Q*bert H. Humphrey | October 29, 2008 8:22 PM

It is a brilliant move. Barack Obama has changed the game with this campaign, and its execution will be studied for years to come. Smart man, smart moves.

What a fucking breath of fresh air.

Posted by kerri harrop | October 29, 2008 8:23 PM

Obama's on Jon Stewart tonight too.

Posted by idaho | October 29, 2008 8:23 PM

I just turned off the obama commercial once I realized Zinn was on Alternative Radio. He's got my vote, now let's figger out how we are going to convince him to REALLY help the people out.

Posted by matt Davis | October 29, 2008 8:24 PM
Posted by Matthew | October 29, 2008 8:25 PM

Why did he suddenly change the tax limit to $200k? McCain is going to POUNCE on that. They already did via Biden's $150k example and this will just restart it.

His website still says $250k, BTW.

Other than that, I like the bits with Michelle and pics with their kids- adorable. The rest was boring since I've been reading obsessively for months.

Still, love that he did it. Very innovative. McCain can whine all he wants, but if he'd thought of it, he'd add it to his "maverick" claim. From O it's just arrogance!

Posted by S-Lo | October 29, 2008 8:29 PM

Wow, what a mindfuck to go straight from Obama's vid to "Deal Or No Deal." It was like a slap in the face...

Posted by Matthew | October 29, 2008 8:32 PM

@11 He didn't change it, it's alway been that way. He will lower taxes for anybody making less than $200,000, keep taxes the same for $200,000-$250,000, and raise taxes for $250,000 and above. Same thing from day one.

Posted by joe | October 29, 2008 8:32 PM

Don't miss the Daily Show tonight. I'd like to see Obama do more of these as president.

Posted by idaho | October 29, 2008 8:33 PM

I thought it was great. Finally someone I could be proud to call our president. Fingers crossed.

Posted by Psot | October 29, 2008 8:33 PM

It was great, but I was a tiny tiny bit disappointed that it was the same speech as that brilliant one in Ohio.

Posted by snakes | October 29, 2008 8:33 PM

this crusty old broad was in tears watching this. i kept thinking of my 10-year-old african-american nephew, and how i whispered in his ear as a baby that i wanted him to be the first african-american president. guess he'll have to be the second, third, fourth or fifth.

Posted by scary tyler moore | October 29, 2008 8:33 PM

people who make under 250K won't see a tax increase. under 200K you get a tax cut.

Posted by Yardlie | October 29, 2008 8:33 PM

@11: $250K is the "taxes go up" line. $200K is the "taxes go down" line.

Posted by AnonymousCoward | October 29, 2008 8:34 PM

I love my country. I love its promise. I want Obama to lead us to it.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | October 29, 2008 8:35 PM

I tried watching this with my kid. Junior saw the family from North Kansas City, Missouri and decided they were bad and McCain supporters because of the minivan, and the several children. Seattle is very insular.

I teared up about the mother with cancer. That pain doesn't go away.

Sometimes I wish I had seven houses and a mother who lived to be 96 so I'd know what it's like to be a McCain supporter.

Posted by i love my hourlong commute | October 29, 2008 8:37 PM

Has anyone else found themselves dry heaving from nerves? It's like prom night and the outcome is either the best night of our lives or some serious Carry like horror.

Posted by cascadian | October 29, 2008 8:38 PM

If Obama wins, I propose a Constitutional Amendment renaming Oregon to "The Great State of Orebama."

If he loses, we should rename Alabama instead.

Posted by kai | October 29, 2008 8:38 PM

Right-o. I'm exhausted so nuance is lost on me tonight!

BTW: The personal stories weren't "boring" by any stretch, but there are so goddamn many of them I've been crying nearly every day for months reading one or another. Honestly, I tried to not pay too close attention.

Tuesday cannot come fast enough... except I'll probably be crying on and off all day... Bah!

Posted by S-Lo | October 29, 2008 8:43 PM

Reaganesque. (But in a good way).

Posted by DOUG. | October 29, 2008 8:43 PM

cascadian @ 22..
i've been losing serious sleep.. the other day i watchedthe ron howard video and the ohio speech and my sleep is seriously wack.. and i know three people who are taking novenber 5th off so they can rest they nerves..

Posted by reverend dr dj riz | October 29, 2008 8:44 PM

I'm going to Vegas to volunteer for Obama over the last four days of this campaign!!!! (And I find Vegas revolting, so this is actually a pretty big sacrifice, not a party.) I am so frickin' excited I can hardly stand it. Leaving everything on the road. Y'all here need to bring it for Gregoire now.

Posted by Suze | October 29, 2008 8:49 PM

interesting point eli re: 1984 but juxtapose that against the "fireside chat" when you didn't have to buy time. yeah the ability to buy time is a double-edged sword that will inevitably be used against the left...but the motive isn't to be all 1984ish this time around, it's to be fireside chatish. your caution is still completely valid.

Posted by LH | October 29, 2008 8:50 PM

My favroite moment: the sudden reveal of the Wal-mart name-tag, followed later by the reference to retiring in dignity.
All the poor old guy wants to do is sit around and play his Gibson and help his sick wife, but he's got to give up his dignity and work at Walmart.
The subtext is perfect, and not too hard to intuit, even if it's hard to articulate: the current system is all about corporations using things like the poor health care system, low wages, etc. to exploit people like him who shouldn't be exploited.

Posted by kinaidos | October 29, 2008 8:53 PM

when that 72 year old guy said he had to go back to work, i thought to myself -- how lame to have to go back to work at that age. i feel so sorry for him, because, what kind of job can a 72 year old get.

then i laughed to myself a little and wondered if the obama camp did that on purpose.

Posted by infrequent | October 29, 2008 9:01 PM

I thought it was brilliant. It was equal parts inspirational, wonkish, and collaborationist. Having all the political figures -- well-respected, non-terrorist governors and so on -- is going to get votes. Obama's the only politician in my lifetime who seems like he's really from the real world. I'm going to be sobbing the night he wins.

Posted by Fnarf | October 29, 2008 9:08 PM

Loved it.

THe segue to the live action in FL was fantastic.

While you all were watching this, MSNBC was showing Billdawg and Obama in FL Billdawg going all out and Obama being very gracious in return. Pointed out how beloved Billdawg is.... aw shucks.....tear in my eye.

I must say Obama now talks about the economic issues with passion. He's not this airy agent of change any more. No sir.

He can wrap his policy planks -- usually the Dems' bete noire, getitng all listy and wonky and hsit -- he wraps them into little mininarratives strike that vignettes....and tiny digs at the opponents and what they say ....

"McCain's calling me a socialist. Well it turns out they did some resesarch and found out in the 4th grade I shared my peanut butter sandwich with my fried....."

in a way that's great.

If he had been like this way back in Jan I -- focusing on changing the economic game we are all in, to restore the American dream for the middle class -- shit I might have been with him way back then.

"George Bush has been digging us in a hole for 8 years and now John McCain wants to take over the shovel."

He also said -- and get this:

"We are going o have to tighten our belts."

His description of the goal of "growing the economy from the bottom up" because when the teacher the firefighter the nurse do well the car dealer does well because they buy a new car and the car company does well and the investors do well and everyone does well ...hsit that's the best short description with solid, visual language, not intellectual bullshit, about the Dem. program and ideal...

This phrase and image of the economic plan as creating opportunity to grow the economy from the bottom up is perhaps the core of that ten word message that Dems have lackedfor way, way way too long.

And the overall frame of growth -- BINGO. Steal that frame back dude. Do not let the GOP own that word. We are the ones for fucking growth, the fucking GOP they're for illth. Right Bailo? Those NYT charts on DJIA growth under Dems and GOP pretty much proves it, too.

Unity y'all--

Posted by PC | October 29, 2008 9:09 PM

Hillary: "Wal-mart, huh?"

Barry: "Yeah, yeah, I know, it was unintentional."

Hillary: "Sure it was-- I mean, you'd never be sarcastic, right?"

Barry: "Ahhh, ya got me, you skuzzy old battleaxe!"

Posted by AJ | October 29, 2008 9:10 PM

Brilliant message pregnant with community organizing principles (being a community organizer its easy to spot).

The day after the election our work begins. We will need to vote out of office those who stand in the way of universal healthcare, among other changes.

the richest country in the world and a fucking lot of people have. no. health. care.


And just so you know, Jesus was a socialist and a community organizer. which is why those in political power had to put him down.

Modern day christians are based on fear and denial, and since the christianization of the republican party they have also become based on fear and denial. Just listen to the last 8 years. And so is what McCain has become.

Posted by I am your Mother | October 29, 2008 9:42 PM

I can't wait to get this party started!

Posted by Shizawn | October 29, 2008 9:48 PM

I'm a 27 year old male and I will admit. I was crying like a baby throughout the whole thing. I'm not an emotional person, but this had me bawling. Wow.

At the end of it, I found myself repeating over and over: We have to win this thing.

Posted by bl@ster | October 29, 2008 9:58 PM

I liked it a lot ... it was a brilliant way to calmly, eloquently make one's case for what they believe in and what they want to do.

yet again ... Obama inspires while the republicans all spew hate and vitriol.

Posted by Gordon | October 29, 2008 10:23 PM

I cannot express how badly I want insurances to cover pre-existing conditions. I have to take medication every day, and it was covered by my parents insurance until a few months ago, when I aged out due to graduating college. Now that I’m moving around in the working world, I get to spend my days worrying about whether or not I’ll be able to find insurance to cover my medication, which I need to function. I’m only 23 years old, and this is place to find oneself in.

Posted by Not that other L | October 29, 2008 10:38 PM

Maybe I missed it, but there wasn't anthing about foreign policy, terrorism, or the wars. That's astounding.

Posted by raindrop | October 29, 2008 10:46 PM

what Obama is doing and has done is brilliant and true and perfect for any of us left-leaning, educated, truth-seeking dweebs under 60. it's what we've been pining for in leadership all our adult lives. but did it do anything for those who manage to be undecided still, in late October? I have no idea. but I also can't think of anything other than this that might work. at some point, it's good to be heartfelt and sincere and positive. anyone who decided to vote for McCain after watching that ad is seriously ill.

Posted by fixo | October 29, 2008 10:56 PM

Obama made me appreciate technology. Like the slider volume control on my Skullcandy earbuds. I was ensconced on a ski-climb at 24 hour fitness on Kent East Hill when that dreck appeared. I was happily tuned into the tv sound via the space age exercise console when Barry's stentorian drone filled my Eustachian tubes.

Even with the volume off it was unbearable, so I slid of the climber to a rowing machine under the tv. But even then in the back position I could see a little bit of the screen. I gave up and took a shower, then ordered the New Century Egg and Pork Congee plus market crab from Fortune Seafood on, who needs the I.D. it was out of this world!

In celebration, I watched The Sand Pebbles while picking at the crab.

Posted by John Bailo | October 29, 2008 11:01 PM

Is anyone else fearing the next McCain press release will bleat "He even says he won't be a perfect president"?

Posted by Jasper's Bitch | October 29, 2008 11:20 PM

Hey I have an election game:

For every comment John Bailo and Lord Basil makes anywhere on SLOG between now and midnight Tuesday, donate to Barack's campaign:

Donate to Barack here:

Posted by I am your Mother | October 29, 2008 11:26 PM

#43.. it's a good idea..but frankly i ain't made of money.

Posted by reverend dr dj riz | October 29, 2008 11:47 PM

He completed the sale to the middle class independents tonight.

But the America-hating Socialist Elitists that vote Republican probably didn't like it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 29, 2008 11:53 PM

@30, Notice a similarity. at 72 y.o that guy's going back to work just to pay his wife's medical bills. at 72 y.o McCain's trying to make sure everyone's still working in their 70s.

Posted by apres_moi | October 30, 2008 1:53 AM

didn't like it. it was cheesy.

Posted by mark | October 30, 2008 2:57 AM


I'm pretty sure you meant a "Kerry-like horror."

Posted by sw | October 30, 2008 5:30 AM

Don;t forget Chris Gregoire in all your giddyness. We need to keep this state on the right track too.

Posted by Rank Stranger | October 30, 2008 6:37 AM

I know that John McCain is not the small, petty man that this campaign has turned him into. I think he's better than that, and I honestly liked him until a year ago, but he is just out of his league against Obama.

I think the McCain campaign will actually do their best to ignore this and play it down. I think they know how good it was.

Posted by James | October 30, 2008 8:39 AM

i will donate for you, riz. let the sour grapes commence!

Posted by scary tyler moore | October 30, 2008 8:41 AM

@50: no, this is really john mccain. the other john mccain was artifice.

@41: too bad you were too scared to watch it. you might have learned something about reality. glad you enjoyed your multi-cultural dinner.

Posted by max solomon | October 30, 2008 9:35 AM

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