obama’s new ad misses the mark

I usually don’t like to touch on politics, even political advertising, because too often it seems to degenerate into a discussion about politics and not a discussion about advertising. Since this is a blog about advertising and not politics, and because I have had about enough from the angry politically-engaged people in the office already I prefer to stay off of the topic.

And then I saw this ad from Barack Obama:

[Disclaimer: commenting on this ad in no way reflects my political leanings or thoughts. I am considering this purely from an advertising perspective and covering it only as an advertisement. Please consider it as such and comment specifically on its ad value, not its content, support of a specific politician or any other partisan concern. This is an ad blog.]

When your competition has a strength that you can’t match it is probably a good idea to spend as little time as possible on the subject. In fact, it is probably better to focus on entirely different subject, ideally ones that give you an advantage.

That is why BMW never talks about horsepower (even for the beastly M-Series).

It is why American Express never talks about APR.

It is why, for all of its whiz-bang gadgetry, Apple never talks about the iPhone’s battery.

They can’t win on those topics. So why, oh why, would Barack Obama talk about McCain’s military service? Sure, he didn’t do it directly, but to make fun of John McCain for not being able to send an email when the reason he can’t is because the injuries he suffered while a prisoner in Vietnam mean that it is difficult for him to use a keyboard…it makes you look like an asshole (and somewhere the campaign peon who didn’t fact check has just lost his job).

Good job, Obama, running an ad that makes you look petty while at the same time reminding viewers that McCain bravely and admirably served his country…whatever your politics, from an advertising perspective we can all agree that the Obama campaign made a bad move.

A bad move.

He was running on the plank of “a new politics” and “change” and descended into this. All because of bad advertising…and now he could be the political version of Beta.

Let this be a lesson (whatever your political persuasion).

I always wonder why the candidates don’t use more established advertising experts to help them with strategy, message and production. Especially someone like Mr Obama. There isn’t a person I know at my agency who isn’t passionately for him. They would do the work for free. They already kind of are, it’s just that they’re spending their time preaching to the choir.

He might want to ask for some help. He’ll get it.


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