So with the new "Painful" ad, we see the 5th new commercial in the last 2 weeks. Over a month ago I mused about the effect YouTube would have on the election, given this is the first presidential election since it hit the Internet. So far, the McCain campaign seems to have a very good grasp on the tactical value of its use.
It appears that McCain has many of these commercials either already made, or all the needed clips ready for quick assembly into the package they want to use. They also have a set of specific themes they want to hit, and they are rolling them out like episodes in a soap opera.
First they mock the celebrity aspect for Obama's campaign, then they tie that theme to his being too above it all to understand that higher taxes affect real people in a later commercial. Throughout it all, they keep hammering home the central overarching theme "Is he ready to lead?" This gets to the central problem with Obama's candidacy, his inexperience, and one he can't argue, since he can't magically increase the 143 days he spent in the Senate.
With the Democrat and Government is broken ads, you see a second theme they are developing. First that McCain recognizes the dislike the voters have for all of government, and that he can fix it. And second that the Democrats know it, using their own words against them. Notice that the Democrat ad also picked up on the inexperience theme, using a stumbling noob Obama getting the the Senate for the first time. I think this theme is also going to be further developed, and has potential for tying it to Obama policies or his porking ways.
The beauty of this approach is it makes the McCain campaign very agile. Whatever the gaffe of the day is, or the charge of the day, McCain can hit back with a hard ad that either mocks, or undermines Obama's attack. As Moe has said, McCain is inside Obama's OORD loop.
I've also mentioned that the ads Obama is running in Florida are really terrible. They are pandering bits of silliness, that don't pass the laugh test. But worse, it is the same commercial. He made a $5M ad buy, and is saturating the air with the same thing over and over. Think about what this might mean during the Olympics. Obama made a $5M buy weeks ago. He probably has his commercials lined up. McCain comes in at the last minute with a $6M buy, and Obama has no idea what is coming. He might be preparing for "Celebrity" or "The One", and McCain will then counter with "Painful" or something we haven't seen.
McCain is also using YouTube as an ad testing service. They put them out, and see which ones go viral, and which ones send the Democrats to the blogs to scream. Once he knows which ones are really resonating, he puts them up in an ad buy for the general public.
I bet that we are going to see a new ad every 3 days or so from McCain. And over time, we are going to see them start to tie together to drive home a point. Like it or not, this is negative campaigning, but it is effective negative campaigning. I think that McCain was offering Obama more than he knew with the townhall debate offer. He was willing to talk issues, but when Obama ducked the challenge, and started refusing to discuss policy proposals (when was the last time Obama talked about healthcare?), then McCain went for the juggular. I'm quite happy with the way McCain is fighting for this thing, and feel no sympathy for Obama. Barry made his own bed.
UpdateI saw the first McCain ad on the Olympics last night. I am 100% convinced I am right on the strategy now. It was a 30 second spot that we have never seen before, it hit 3 points:
1) It reminded people of "Celebrity" with a quick shot of the flashbulb opening
2) It questioned Barack's ability to lead on energy policy
3) Then it went positive on McCain's energy plan, focusing on renewables (with a picture of a windmill)
He has prepared the ground with "Celebrity" and "The One" letting him reinforce the point in less than 5 seconds, then begins to build on the base to roll out McCain policy proposals.
This ad campaign may be considered one of the best of all time with its flexibility and ability to distribute a wide ranging message.