I completely agree with Nate Silver: the Obama campaign needs to make better ads. It's not that Obama's ads are bad by any normal metric. They're wel
September 9, 2008

I completely agree with Nate Silver: the Obama campaign needs to make better ads.

It's not that Obama's ads are bad by any normal metric. They're well produced and they usually hit the right themes. The problem is that they're very conventional. Obama is supposed to exude change. But his ads don't. They look like the ads we see every election cycle: images, text, and video footage linked together by the voice of a professional narrator. They may be marginally effective, but they are exceedingly forgettable and often make Obama come across as just another politician playing the same old game (even though his ads are much more honest than McCain's).

The Obama campaign needs to think a little more outside of the box. They should aim to produce ads that are either more creative/funny than a typical campaign ad, or more sincere. On the creative front, a good example is this anti-Norm Coleman ad from Minnesota:

With the exception of this kind of spoof ad, though, I think the Obama campaign should stop wasting its money on production value and professional narrators. If the message is change, why not cut out the middleman and simply have Obama and Biden address the American people directly? No narrator. No music. Nothing but the candidate himself, unfiltered, speaking bluntly to the American people. As I've noted previously, David Axelrod used this technique with great success in Deval Patrick's gubernatorial campaign, which also emphasized a "change" theme. (see these two ads for example).

Obama and Biden could use these kind of ads to rebut Republican lies and set the record straight. Each ad could be devoted to rebutting a single major lie (such as the Bridge to Nowhere claim or the claim that Obama will raise taxes). Both Obama and Biden have a gift for sincerity, and would come across well in this format. And I think it would help them really own the change theme. It would make the Obama/Biden campaign look and feel genuinely different and, if done effectively, would co-opt the maverick/straight-talker image that the McCain/Palin campaign is trying so desperately to cultivate. I suspect ads like these would also garner a lot of free press as the news channels play them and discuss them.

And here's one more reason for the Obama campaign to take this approach. If they don't, the McCain campaign is going to beat them to it, and the media is going to fall over backwards praising them for being so mavericky. Mark my words.

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