We have just 10 days left until voters hit the polls en masse to cast their vote for President of the United States. And within that tiny window before election day, the Obama campaign has released the most brilliant political ad I’ve ever seen. I have to warn you, many of you may find this offensive and distasteful.
Now, let me first say the reason I find this ad so amazing has nothing to do with what it’s talking about. Comparing voting for the first time to losing your virginity is not some door-breaking revelation that will cause voters to flock to Obama’s side. I am not saying it’s great because it features a cute and edgy Emmy-nominated actress acting, well, cute and edgy. This ad’s genius has nothing to do with content, appeal to the masses or a clear vision for the United States.
The reason this ad is frightfully effective is that it is a perfect combination of timing and targeting.
Let’s talk timing first. As stated, we are less than two weeks from the election. The debates are over, the candidates are largely campaigning only in swing states, like Ohio, Virginia and Florida. And the last two economic indicators before the election were both positive for President Obama. The first was released earlier this month, when the nation’s unemployment rate fell by three-tenths of a point to 7.8 percent. And it did so on the back of more people returning to work instead of dropping out of the workforce. And the most recent (and final) economic news came today, when the Commerce Department announced the economy expanded by 2 percent between July and September. While still slow, it was better than expected, and for a voting public that doesn’t have its degree in economics, it looks favorable for the President.
So this Lena Dunham ad hits the air after Mitt Romney has had his final face-to-face with Obama, and concurrent with a boost in the economy that is good, but not as good as any of us would like. But the timing is only part of it. The audience targeting of this commercial is the part that is really astounding.
Believe it or not, this ad is intended for two sets of voters. The first one is obvious: young people. These people immediately know who Dunham is (actor and producer of HBO’s Girls). They tend to be more liberal. They tend to be more exposed to open talk about sex. While some of these young people might not like the ad (and might well be offended by it), the majority of them won’t even blink. They’ll probably love it just for its face value. Now, this group of young people, many of them students, was mostly going to vote for the President anyway. For them, this is a memorable commercial, yes, but will not change their vote one way or the other.
So why do I believe this commercial is the best political ad I’ve seen? Because it targets another group of people. It targets conservatives. It targets them hard, and not at all in the way you are thinking. It’s true, this ad will not convince a single Republican or conservative to vote for Obama, or vote against Romney. If anything, it will further solidify Republicans behind Romney. But it will infuriate them. It is infuriating them.
Do a simple Google search for “Lena Dunham Obama”. See if you can count the number of political blogs and columns about this spot. I didn’t bother counting, but it is already well over a thousand. That’s more than a thousand sources of conservative viewpoints all focused on a commercial that has no impact on the vote. Bloggers can’t help themselves (heck, I couldn’t). This is red meat dangled in front of a starving pack of dogs. Check out a few responses below:
As a father of two beautiful girls, how could you possibly have allowed this to be aired? Did you approve this? Did someone on your campaign staff actually think this was a good idea? It is offensive, repulsive and should be removed immediately. – Red State
Is it a good idea for a campaign to equate voting for their candidate to getting screwed? – Michelle Malkin
Isn’t it just like a wingnut (Dunham) to sexualize the right to vote that women fought so hard for? Do they think women are too stupid to appreciate a straightforward pitch on the issues? – Hot Air
That’s just a small, but representative sample of the conservative blogosphere’s reaction to the ad. And you know what? They have a point. But what they don’t realize is that they are playing right in to the Obama camp’s strategy. Instead of spending the final days breaking down facts and hunting down dirt on the President, they will be talking about this. It only further demonstrates the genius of this spot that it was released on a Thursday afternoon, just in time for it to become popular and well-disseminated Friday evening. That is conveniently after Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren have lined up their guests and laid out their programs. Sure, they might get to mention the ad, but won’t really get to sink their teeth in it until Monday. In other words, conservative talking heads will spend the final full week of the election season talking about something that will have no impact on the vote.
So to sum up: this ad, which will not change any minds about the best candidate, is released at a time when the economy looks to be improving and conservative leaders can’t truly react to it until the final full week before the election. Instead of talking breaking down why Romney might be correct about his Detroit bankruptcy comments or how Libya demonstrates that the President might not have the best handle on dealing with a foreign terror threat, conservatives will be talking about an actress equating voting to sex. When undecided voters head to the polls, the last real news they’ll have heard is how the economy has improved, and some meaningless rambling about an advertisement by a liberal actress. That’s why this commercial is perfect. I’ve never seen a political ad so expertly crafted, timed and targeted in my life. This is political strategy at its pinnacle.
Oh, and don’t think that President Obama will mention this genius commercial at all. He doesn’t have to. It’s already doing exactly what he and his team want. It is locking in the news cycle to a pointless discussion while the final piece of real news paints him in a positive light. Obama won’t talk about this ad directly, and the President won’t be seen anywhere near Lena Dunham, except maybe on election night, if she joins him on stage celebrating his winning a second term.