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Barack Obama, John McCain, Web Ad

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 10:34 AM

Barack Obama's new 13-minute video on John McCain's role in the "Keating Five" scandal is making waves this week, but it's only the latest salvo in what has been an ongoing ad war in cyberspace between the two candidates.

As Amy Harder discusses in a new NationalJournal.com online exclusive, Web advertising in all its incarnations is opening up a new set of opportunities -- and risks -- for presidential campaigns, and McCain and Obama are taking advantage of the technology in sharply distinctive ways.

John McCain, Television Ad, Web Ad

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 2:46 PM

While John McCain continues to release a TV ad every day, his online ad campaign has intensified within the last couple of days. Three Web videos have already been released this week, all more derisive and mocking than their TV counterparts. The increased focus on production-cheap online ads rather than the more expensive TV spots likely has to do with the campaign's fundraising, which continues to lag behind that of Barack Obama.

The McCain camp released the TV ad "Rein" (subscription) Tuesday, which uses a clip of former President Bill Clinton, in a Sept. 25 interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," casting doubt on the Democrats' efforts to blame the market turmoil on Republicans: "I think the responsibility that the Democrats have may rest more in resisting any efforts by Republicans in the Congress or by me when I was president to put some standards and tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." The ad also cites media reports that suggest McCain has been active in trying to solve the financial crisis while Obama has remained "silent."

The campaign's recent online ads are more caustic in their approach. "Strong" uses a comment Obama made -- "We've got the long-term fundamentals that will really make sure this economy grows" -- to suggest that Obama either agrees with McCain's much-talked-about statement that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong" or is being disingenuous in his attacks on McCain. "Either way," an announcer concludes, "Obama's a hypocrite."

Two other Web ads -- "Alaska's Political Circus" and "Better Off" -- focus almost solely on Sarah Palin. "Alaska's Political Circus" airs jaunty music and accuses "Obama partisans" in Alaska of conducting politically charged inquiries into Palin's history. "Better Off," meanwhile, shows Palin denouncing Obama's positions on taxes.

So, where is McCain in all these ads? When his running mate appears to garner the lion's share of the media attention (for better or worse), these spots appear to be aimed at harnessing that attention in a more favorable light to Palin.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Radio Ad, Television Ad, Web Ad

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 12:30 PM

Oops. Joe Biden declared recently that the Democratic ticket was against clean coal when Barack Obama's energy plan explicitly shows the Illinois senator's support for it. This gaffe, which Biden made at a campaign rally in Ohio, has prompted three new ads -- two by John McCain attacking his opponent over it and one by Obama aiming to emphasize his commitment to clean coal.

Obama's ad makes no attempt to reconcile Biden's comment with the Illinois senator's position on the issue, but rather seeks to portray Obama as a longtime friend of the coal industry. "Figured" (subscription) features Randy Henry, an Illinois miner, vouching for Obama's support of the industry as a state and U.S. senator. While the candidate may be from Chicago, Henry insists that Obama made a concerted effort to visit coal mines in Southern Illinois and help communities that were struggling as mining jobs disappeared.

Meanwhile, the McCain camp released a radio ad, "Clean Coal" (subscription), Monday in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia that features a clip of Biden's comment, charging that "Obama-Biden and their liberal allies oppose clean coal." The spot argues for the importance of clean coal, specifically to the residents of the aforementioned battleground states, and links the Democratic ticket's alleged opposition to clean coal with other energy issues. "No energy independence for America? It's no surprise," an announcer says. "After all, Obama-Biden and their liberal allies opposed offshore drilling." The script of the ad is virtually the same in each state; only the reference of the state name changes from market to market.

The McCain camp also released a mocking Web ad last week, "The Coal Miner," which juxtaposes footage of Obama speaking in support of clean coal with Biden speaking in opposition to it. The ad concludes with text on screen reading: "Obama + Biden. Ready to pander? Yes. Ready to lead? No."

-- Mary Gilbert contributed reporting to this post.

John McCain, Web Ad

Thursday, September 11, 2008 12:13 PM

A McCain campaign Web video accusing Barack Obama of sexist "smears" against Sarah Palin has been pulled from YouTube at the request of CBS, but not before racking up countless views online and on cable news throughout Wednesday. CBS asked that the ad be removed because it included footage from an online commentary by Katie Couric about sexism in the presidential race. In the McCain video, she appears to be accusing Obama of sexism; in fact, she was talking about coverage of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy in June.

A spokesman for YouTube was unable to say exactly how many times the video had been watched online because the company does not keep track of statistics for videos that have been pulled from their site.

John McCain, Web Ad

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 12:25 PM

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words... can get you in a pretty big mess too. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain is up with a new Web ad today that attacks Democratic rival Barack Obama for his decision to opt out of the public finance system. The ad, called "Words," uses Obama's against him in an attempt to show that the Illinois senator flip-flopped on his position supporting the system.

The spot highlights various speeches and interviews Obama has given, including those where he pledged to work with the Arizona senator, as well as the video message he sent out informing supporters of his decision to forgo public financing. The ad repeats a clip of Obama saying "don't tell me words don't matter" while displaying various media reports chastising him for his change in positions.

Even though the two raised roughly even amounts of money in May, Obama has continually surpassed McCain in his fundraising efforts, which could help explain some of his reasoning for opting out. With his campaign raising a record-breaking amount nearing $300 million so far -- far more than the meager $84 million specified in the public finance system -- clearly Obama doesn't need the taxpayer help.

Web Ad

Thursday, May 15, 2008 4:50 PM

As the first presidential primary of the YouTube era nears its end, wonks may wonder which Web spots -- from both candidates and third parties -- have had the most impact on voters. The influence of online videos can be difficult to measure, but some independent developers have created tools that aim to contextualize Web video-watching trends and compare the resonance of different releases.

One such application, TimeTube, sorts YouTube videos based on a particular search term and charts them onto a timeline according to viewership. The more times the video has been watched, the larger its thumbnail appears onscreen.

Querying the three presidential candidates reveals that many of the most-watched videos are attack ads and embarrassing clips. For example, a satirical song criticizing John McCain's statements on Iraq and Iran is given prominence on his timeline because of its more than 1.6 million views. (His campaign's most-watched official Web release -- a 16-second clip of Bill Clinton praising McCain -- garnered fewer than a quarter as many hits.)

Searching for other politicians yields similarly negative results. "I'm particularly fond of Eliot Spitzer's TimeTube, which provides a nice contrast between his cheery political ads and the infamous Client Number 9 debacle," Jason Kincaid wrote at TechCrunch. While Kincaid questions the value of indexing videos based on when they were uploaded -- rather than the actual date of the footage -- TimeTube's system has the advantage of showing how old video clips are sometimes resurrected during a campaign, as when CBS excavated footage in response to Hillary Rodham Clinton's inaccurate recollection of a 1996 visit to Bosnia.

Continue reading Putting Web Video Into Perspective

John McCain, Web Ad

Monday, April 7, 2008 2:33 PM

Last week, John McCain released more ads than both of his well-funded Democratic rivals combined -- on the Internet, at least.

To complement his biographical campaign tour, which began last Monday, the Arizona senator released a new Web-only video almost daily in an effort to set the tone for that day's news coverage, frame his scheduled events and speeches and pick up earned media by getting free replay on cable news. More broadly, the tour and Web campaign are part a larger effort to define McCain's candidacy while his opponents remain stalemated for the Democratic nomination and third-party attack groups find themselves temporarily starved for cash.

Continue reading Who's Watching McCain's Bio Ads?

Economy, John McCain, Web Ad

Thursday, April 3, 2008 12:15 PM

Call it the Swift Boat reflex. As an indication of the speed at which presidential contenders now feel compelled to respond to attacks, consider that it took less than six hours for John McCain to release a Web ad rebutting Hillary Rodham Clinton's latest TV spot in Pennsylvania, which portrays him as an unfit steward of the national economy.

Using the same footage as Clinton's ad -- with a shot of a steely-eyed McCain tacked on to the end -- "Ready" opens with the now-familiar line, "It's 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep." It then goes on to blast both Clinton and Barack Obama for their economic proposals, saying "they'd solve the problem by raising your taxes. More money out of your pocket. John McCain has a better plan: Grow jobs. Grow our economy, not grow Washington."

Continue reading McCain Returns Clinton's Call

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