Pres. Obama’s released his first campaign commercial of the 2012 election.
Here are impressions of the commercial (playing in Wisconsin), embedded below. They address the politics, and not the merits, of Obama’s message.
Video quality. As one might expect at this level, the video looks great — sharp, with brisk pacing, and a good mix of photos and video clips. It’s a big step up from statewide or local campaign ads. No surprise there.
Video message. The ad starts abruptly, and defensively. That cannot be by accident, as it starts so abruptly that it’s meant to address a particular concern in a particular way for a particular purpose.
The particular concern: that Obama has fumbled on green energy, in way that may also be unethical. The particular way: by presenting criticism of Obama as part of a billionaire’s conspiracy. The particular purpose: to test themes in a battleground state, while the GOP is still picking a nominee. There’s a conspiratorial cast to the early part of the commercial that’s probably of interest to Team Obama — how helpful is it it answer criticism by impugning critics as shadowy, big-moneyed, corporate oligarchs?
They likely know what focus groups think, but how do prospective voters (and Democratic leaders) where these ads run feel, before and after the commercials?
Will this ad allow Obama to inoculate himself from charges in a conservative commercial that hit him over companies like Solyndra?
Narration. The ad uses a narrator, and he sounds fine — middle-aged, confident, but understated. That’s the right approach — a deeper, more assertive voice isn’t needed, and would be counterproductive. Pres. Obama seeks to convey greater reliability than his GOP rival; as an incumbent, he can make that case without narration that rattles one’s stereo speakers.
If I thought that this were something other an in-market test message, I’d think it too abrupt, and a failure. This commercial’s like a large-scale drug trial: does it stop the lethal spread of criticism over mishandling of green-energy funding?
Too many trial messages like this are a bad idea, but one here or there will be more helpful than harmful. If they succeed with voters, their themes can be repeated in the months ahead. If they’re failures, they’ll be forgotten before the Republicans have their nominee.
But, for a fully-cooked campaign ad from the Obama campaign, we’ll have to wait. This isn’t it, and it’s not meant to be.