McCain Feels The Love

One of the things we rarely see in consumer advertising is a back-and-forth message sparring between 2 brands. That’s why the political season is so fascinating to me. And while I’m not a McCain supporter, this is a pretty sharply written spot:

UPDATE: Well, maybe the McCain team isn’t deserving of all the credit. The line “don’t hope for a better life, vote for one” is a direct lift from a Saatchi & Saatchi ad in the 70’s for the British Tory party. (Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.)

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. The spot is sharp because the brand is authentic.

  2. i was with you on the writing until they took the easy cheap shot at obama’s “hope” slogan/mantra. no need to go there when the well of mccain material is so deep. but, of course, this is politics, and they’ll do anything to make a dorky old man seem clever.

  3. td:
    Well, that’s part of the back-and-forth. They’re taking very blatant, as well as subtle, jabs at Obama, using his campaign’s themes and words and turning them back at him.

  4. oh, i know, danny g. it’s just sad we (americans) can’t seem to brand a candidate completely on her or his own merits and character without stooping to bashing the competition, however subtle or blatant. i’m not saying barack hasn’t done the same, but seriously, if there’s anything this country needs right now, it’s hope, so pick another word on which to hang a your lame little barb. that’s my beef, i suppose.

  5. it’s a good ad for mccain. it plays to his strengths. it’s true. if he ran this ad in 2000 and he was the candidate, i would have voted for him. now, not so much.
    but this one is preaching to the choir. and based on that it works solidly. “Do you want a war hero for president?”.

  6. The ad tells me that John McCain was a good soldier during a bad war but a lot of years have gone by… You’d think he’d want not to send more good soldiers to another bad war. You’d think that but you’d be wrong. The ad tells us McCain believes the world is “a very dangerous place.” I can’t help but wonder if he wants to keep it that way.

  7. Tom Messner says:

    This year’s election is most like 1976.
    Advertising irrelevant, but the polls swung depending on whom was being talked about, whose peccadilloes were in the news.
    I.e., when the subject was Carter’s inexperience, Ford’s polling rose; when the subject was Ford’s bumbling–physically or mentally–Carter pushed ahead. Ford was doing right well until he wrote off Poland as a free republic, almost a suburb of Chicago.
    The most significant thing going on right now is Obama’s surrogates (Harkins, Rockefeller, and Clark) cutting apart McCain’s war record as a perfect résumé for the Presidency. Smart moves there, as they keep the discussion for three or four days in a media cycle on McCain, not on Obama’s lack of accomplishment or experience in peace or war. Just this weekend, Bill Clinton offered up McCain’s prisoner of war experience as precisely what we don’t want in a President because who knows when the guy will snap? Attacking people for their virtues is a clever political move.
    If McCain is unable to question Obama through his or someone else’s advertising or through his own surrogates, then it’s all over. Obama might just sweep all those 58 states he promises to campaign in.

  8. Another thing this ad does is perpetuate the Culture War by bashing the 1960s. Reagan made a living off that tactic and both Bushes employed the same tired arguments. It shows how old McCain is and how devoid of new ideas he is.

  9. david, it’s one of the most tired tactics of the extreme right to rewrite the 60s as the beginning of the end of American civilization. i guess segregation was a golden era if looked through the correct lens 😉

  10. @ David & veedub:
    Both good points. I think the ad, while it has its merits, is preaching to the converted. Obama was 6 years old during the Summer of Love, so tying him to the 60’s idealists only speaks to those who remember it.

  11. agree danny, i’m guessing this is aimed squarely at the Murder She Wrote crowd.
    you’d think McCain wouldn’t have to worry about the support of his peers.

  12. peanut gallery says:

    Reagan’s “Morning in America” set the benchmark for political TV spots. Of course, he had BBDO to thank for that gem.
    This one, while well written and nicely shot, seems to lack the emotion.

  13. In an advertising sense, this spot is slightly better than the usual crap the political ad guys churn out. Even on that point, it has about three sentences too many so the whole thing winds up feeling like a VO that’s rushing to the finish line. I’m guessing there was lots of red ink on the script after the session and plenty of instruction from the booth to, “…pick up a few seconds this time.”
    In a hope for the best in politics vein, I can’t see how bashing 60’s protesters right out of the gates does anything but divide us once again. As some in the media have noted, we’d have plenty of students protesting on campuses if there was a draft right now.
    These litmus tests for patriotism are just so tired. Sure, McCain served and served honorably but the guy comes from a military family. That doesn’t mean a military guy is a good choice to run the country.
    As others noted, the spot works if he wants to preach to the choir. Next up, apple pie, picket fences and tons of white people who look like me.

  14. peanut,
    thought morning in america was written Hal Riney.

  15. If I recall correctly, Reagan had a dream team of Riney, Dusenberry and other heavyweights of the day.
    And Riney definitely did the VO.

  16. peanut gallery says:

    Oops, I’m wrong.
    I forgot Hal Riney was part of the “Tuesday Team.”

  17. peanut gallery says:

    Yep, I was a little off there.
    For some reason I thought Phil Dusenberry had written “morning in america.”
    Thanks for correcting me.