Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Playing Savvy With the Savvy

Please tell me that this is a sign that the Democrats have finally learned how to use the media machine to their advantage.

The DNC’s hard-hitting new spot hits Romney where it hurts, and borrows a popular GOP advertising concept to do it: the fake movie preview. From Tim Pawlenty to Rick Perry to Herman Cain, the presidential field has been lousy (and we do mean lousy) with movie trailer-style campaign ads.

The new DNC TV spot, which casts Romney as a man with two identities battling with himself, masters the form. It’s running in several swing states and ties into a larger web-based campaign that pushes an even longer version of the anti-Romney movie trailer.

The ad’s arrival was heralded as a Big Deal, signaling the Democrats are digging in on Romney and ignoring the rest of the field. That’s not really new — the DNC has been dinging Romney for weeks while paying far less attention to the other Republicans running for the nomination against him. But the specter of the DNC taking the attacks to a national TV ad had pundits aflutter.

“Will any of Romney’s Republican opponents criticize him as intensely this week as the Democratic National Committee does in its new ad?” asked one Politico hotsheet.

Then a little air came out of the balloon a little. A source told NBC News that the DNC was spending just $14,000 on airtime for its new multi-state ad. That’s enough to get your ad on TV so you can say you have a TV ad (and get the requisite press coverage that goes with it) but it’s not enough for your TV ad to have much impact.

Depends on who your real target is, and right now that target is the media. If you can get them to carry your message (and they certainly have), it's so much free air time. Why pay millions when you are still in the primary season? Save the money, set the tone, and then watch them run with it.

The long version of the ad has 141,000 views as of this morning, not a huge number for something that has been trumpeted with this much national fanfare. But, not only did you get the political chattering class wagging their tongues, you had a coordinated announcement with the Democratic Party apparatus in swing states, too. They sent out their e-mails, alerted the base, maybe picked up a bit of local coverage. It's not a huge splash, but just enough to wet the appetite.

And that's OK. Why? Because you got Mitt to take the bait.

Responding to the Democratic National Committee's airing of anti-Mitt Romney commercials in six different states, the Romney campaign on Monday had surrogates from 12 different states - including onetime GOP rival Tim Pawlenty -- hold conference calls attacking President Obama and defending Romney.

The DNC's ad, "Mitt vs. Mitt", depicts Romney making claims both supporting and opposing abortion rights, and also shows him saying he's "glad to hear" the president talking up the health care policy he helped enact in Massachusetts when he was governor there.

Reported final total of the ad buy? $22k - including a late $8k cable buy in the DC area, which may be more for the benefit of the press there than the electorate.

Putting the Romney campaign on defense to the point where they have to refute that he's a flip-flopper, which only serves to reinforce the message? That's priceless. It's called "playing offense", and if you can keep the Republicans in a reactive instead of a proactive stance, it means everything. Ask Karl Rove.

Now if only we could learn to do this on policy as well...