This morning Barack Obama and John McCain both released ads in response to the financial crisis. The candidates took markedly different approaches: McCain’s ad is gloomy and kind of scary, surely an attempt to convey the seriousness of the times, which require a proven leader, like, say, McCain. Obama, on the other hand, tries to present a calm, familiar presence that you can feel comfortable entrusting your life with.
McCain’s ad starts out with a nice ego boost in these trying times. “You, the American workers, are the best in the world,” he says, while music you might recognize from a Weitz & Luxenberg commercial plays in the background. As seizure-inducing images of the stock exchange flash across the screen, he explains that Wall Street greed has threatened your economic security, and, bizarrely, all Obama wants to do is tax you more. It’s the classic GOP scare strategy, in video form. But don’t worry, McCain assures, because he’ll “reform Wall Street and fix Washington.” How can we be sure? “I’ve taken on tougher guys than this before,” he says with a sly smile and a cock of the head. We’re not sure whom he’s referring to exactly, but we’re assuming it’s a nod to his time as a POW. Did you know McCain was a POW? He was. And he totally kicked those commie asses. (Wait…) A narrator finishes with the catchy punch line, “Change is coming.”
Obama’s ad is noticeably less ominous and also about four times longer, composed solely of Obama speaking directly into the camera the entire time. The setting is cozy and bright. “Hey, friends, come and sit down with me on the couch in my lamp-filled hotel suite, and let’s you and me have a little chat about the economy,” the mood seems to suggest. Obama begins by detailing a fairly depressing list of all the various economic difficulties people are facing these days. What America needs is, of course, change. But, specifically, we need “real change,” none of that fake shit some other guys are talking about. About a minute in, Obama runs through his plan to help the economy: Stop showering money on oil companies, end Wall Street’s “anything-goes culture,” create jobs, crack down on lobbyists, and let the Iraqis rebuild their own damn country. “Doing these things won’t be easy,” Obama says, “but we’re Americans [including me, Barack Obama — my mom is from Kansas], we’ve met tough challenges before, and we can again.” Obama ends by suggesting that any remaining viewers go onto his Website and check out his economic plan, before sounding a hopeful note that we can overcome partisanship and old ideas “from the left and the right” to solve our problems.
So which ad is more effective? Will McCain convince voters he’s the only way out of this disaster? Is two minutes way too long for anyone to actually sit through?