Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This Obama 30 min primetime informercial.... really worrying me. ( See HuffPo for latest details, or ABC Newsblog)It's total overkill. For starters, it's delaying ball game coverage for half an hour, which is going to really irritate sports fans on principle, Obama fans or not. I can just see it playing in sports bars, and fans jeeringly chucking peanuts at the screen ( and Fox gleefully filming it all). It cost millions, when money is tight for everyone and the economy is in freefall. It feeds into Obama's opponent's mocking narrative of 'The One', the vainglorious, spooky cult leader, who has the media in the palm of his hand. It looks grandiose, and however marvellous the content, it is hard to override the negative message that the audacious act of taking over most of the major channels simultaneously sends out.

When you have closed the deal and are in the lead, you shut up and stop selling.

I remember how this used to happen with brand managers when I worked on ad campaigns; they would get overexcited and make the mistake of thinking everyone is as into their product as they were and wanted endless nth degree detail, but the truth is, the consumer isn't, and only gets suspicious and irritated if you over-evangelise.

The converted don't need this, the curious already know how to find out about Obama, the racists and wingnuts who think he's the antichrist will only hate him even more, the committed GOP-pers will vote GOP as they always do, and the rest, the floaters, the independents, rightist by inclination but currently furious with Bush and anxious about their jobs and futures, just need to sidle towards the normally-riskier but just-now seemingly safer bet, lips tightened, fingers crossed - without fanfare and drama.

They are not going to vote joyfully, feeling part of a Change revolution. They are making what used to be called a 'distress purchase', considering the 'least worst option'. Of all the voters, these are the ones who are likely to be most sensitive to anxieties about Obama's Otherness - and any character flaws like perceived arrogance or elitism. They want to be reassured, vote and get it over with, hoping for some better news as a reward for what they still think of as a scary jump into the unknown.

I can understand what may have been the original thinking behind the media purchase of 30 minutes multi-network prime time; give these people 30 minutes cosy TV time with Obama and they will see that he's normal, understands them, has a good economic plan, reaches out to People Like Them...

But this staggering ad buy is just too much. It's far too easy to stoke unease by portraying Obama as some arrogant show-off who's already measuring the Oval Offfice drapes, who is hubristically fascinated by his own message and assumes everyone else is too. This is unfair, as Obama is the least narcissistic politician I have seen in years, but that won't stop the chronically narcissistic McCain and Palin, who can't understand him as he is so unlike them, throwing all their jealous, angry scorn at him. Projection, the GOP's story of this election.

Primetime TV is a 'push' medium: the consumer sits on his sofa and passively recieves it, expecting to be entertained. The internet is a 'pull' medium: people choose to log on and actively search out stuff, pulling information towards themselves. Party political broadcasts are always a turn off, however slick, however sympathetic, however much they flatter and cajole their intended audiences.

Nobody likes to be pushed too hard: half an hour of some politician guy advertising himself - in person or via testimonials from celebs, worthies and ordinary Joes - is not what people really tend to tune in for on a Wednesday night - and I think this is going to backfire badly.

Gah. I hope I'm wrong and this isn't the worst own goal ever.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not watching. I'm just oversaturated and bored out of my mind with this election. I can't watch one more commercial, sorry. Plus sincerely after I heard in the news how much Obama has spent in his campaign, especially with our economy in the toilet and our trillions of dollars in deficit, there is no way that I'll watch an infomercial that has cost 3 million dollars!!! It is obscene and unnecessary. For shame.

Plus there is no way that I'm missing Pushing Daisies in favor of an infomercial. No way.

October 29, 2008 3:54 pm  
Anonymous Kate said...

It's not about the actual TV time though is it, it's about the news agenda. Doing this pushes McCain out of at least one news cycle. And that's important because we're just at the point now where the 7-days-out 'consolidation' message has worked its way through the news cycle, leaving just enough time for a scandal to hit and be maximised before the final countdown starts.

I've been scared stiff (still am) that, as you discussed on an earlier post, something will happen to break the spell, either foreign policy-wise or scandal-wise, and there's still just enough time for it to really hurt.
If Obama can monopolise the next couple of days' news cycles, it seriously erodes McCain's chances of getting any momentum going on anything really harmful.

And that is definitely worth doing, especially when the reputational cost of the TV ad is not that great - as you've said yourself, it won't change anyone's mind about anything.

October 29, 2008 4:05 pm  
Blogger Boggo said...

I suspect we may find the programme very American, but then it is an American election: if the rest of the world had a vote it would have been over long ago.

We are all very edgy, but it could be worse - just think how we would feel if the polls were reversed.

Mark Steel in his very funny piece in the Independent today manages to express the unease we all feel - the small lead doesn't seem possible, it should be a landslide.

As a confirmed pessimist I am amazed to say I still think it may be a landslide.

In spite of George W I have not lost all faith in America, just yet.

October 29, 2008 5:21 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

I can understand why everyone is getting sick to death of election commercials.

A good point about dominating the news cycle. And the Gop are frantic for scandal - that they are recycling old stories from the LA Times about Palestinian-sympathising lefty professorwittering on about birth certtificates, and desperate to find some scandal like an Obama affair with his staffer - is worrying.

On the other hand, the circular firing squad/dysfunctional campaign motif has really got into the news and so many senior Republicansd have jumped ship or endorsed Obama that it does feel as if the goose is almost cooked and the fat lady is clearing her throat...

Oh, the stress. I really am going a bit mad with it all.

October 29, 2008 6:55 pm  
Anonymous Ruth said...

Greetings Rachel from NY!
Hope you are well.
As a Brit in the US I have experienced all the fun of this election first hand. I'm fed up with all these presidential and vice presidential debates taking over most of the TV channels, and disrupting my already limited TV viewing pleasure, so a half hour advert will not be on my agenda, especially as it's happy hour down my local bar. Do they need to be on nearly every channel, leaving me with a choice of Ghost Hunters or Iron Chef Challenge Asparagus. The only difference is various people who comment at the end about who came across well. Why can't one channel buy the rights like ITV and the BBC used to do with national football matches
This election has also forced me to sit through episodes of Saturday Night Live to see what all the fuss is about. Very unfunny most of it is too.
An on line quiz told me I'm an Obama supporter (accurate as it is I'm sure), and to be honest it's a scary choice for Americans. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Obama reminds me of Tony Blair..remember how we all thought he was OK when he swept to power promising change, and look what a maniac he turned out to be. Still, I wouldn't vote for anyone who shoots animals as a leisure activity and right leaning religious zealots scare me, too. Either way, whoever wins is going to inherit a great big pile of dog poop. Glad I'm impotent here and couldn't vote if I wanted to.

Take care,


October 29, 2008 9:02 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hi Ruth!

Blair has a lot to anser for...

October 29, 2008 10:36 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

answer, even.

October 29, 2008 10:36 pm  
Blogger shreya said...


This is a very nice Blog. The article is really nice. Ruth has described things beautifully, i must say.

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October 30, 2008 7:33 am  
Blogger Cookiemouse said...

You make a good point about knowing when to shut up. We all learn that lesson time and time again.

October 30, 2008 6:33 pm  
Blogger Wasp_Box said...

Doesn't it scare you that he'll turn out to be another Blair? I so want to believe this guy but I was fooled by the Blair - what an error that was.

October 30, 2008 7:00 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

It does scare me but I think he is genuine - and Republican administrations care me more

October 31, 2008 1:03 pm  

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