Unconventional commercial clouds campaign’s message

I hate commercials. I just want to watch an episode of Pan Am or Glee without having to hear about why I should consider taking Lipitor or why Tide to Go is the best way to stay clean (I’m messy, I know it, and I’m not trying to change it).

Political ad campaigns, however, just might be the worst. Does anybody remember the “Blagojevich ads”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mcipMqg__w against Judy Baar Topinka, “She’s against veterans and against America” (followed by “What was she thinking???”). It’s worth watching, if for no other reason than it might have been at the height of Blago’s political career.

That ad sticks out in my mind just because of the sheer number of times it played on TV (when you’re watching Law & Order: SVU, there really never is an appropriate moment for a commercial) and also because of its aggressive approach.

I realize that television ads are key in political ad campaigns, because it’s your two minutes to show how completely honest, totally truthful and unabatedly committed to community service you are.

Instead of talking about the issues, it’s also a great two minutes for you to rag on your opponent. What better time to unearth ugly pictures of your opponent, flash them against black ominous backgrounds and have the guy from “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” list his or her political sins (Throw some lightning in there, and you have a movie in the making)?

While I’m generally cynical about these kind of ads and their ability to really convey a truthful message, I realize their power in swaying the American public.

That’s why this week, when Herman Cain’s newest ad started generating some buzz, I seriously had to wonder what he was thinking.

“The ad”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6VnTqpTqvQ starts out normally enough, with Cain’s chief of staff, Mark Block, talking to the camera and encouraging people to take action, “because together we can take back America.” Then, he proceeds to take a long drag of his cigarette, while a voice in the background sings, “I am America, united we stand …”

Wait, WHAT?? Seriously, I’m trying not to be dramatic when I say it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. Did this guy really just take a puff of his cigarette in an ad campaign for a PRESIDENTIAL candidate??

U.S. News and World Report’s website has “a poll”:http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2011/10/26/smoking-herman-cain-campaign-ad-brilliant-or-bizarre asking whether it’s brilliant or bizarre, some have called it “lightning in a bottle” and others are wondering if this was a serious ad campaign.

I’m just curious as to what kind of message he was trying to send. Was the gray hair, scraggly mustache and fatigued look supposed to appeal to the average Joe voter?

Block went on Fox News after the video went viral to clear up the message.

“We’re on a roll,” “he said”:http://foxnewsinsider.com/2011/10/25/video-herman-cains-chief-of-staff-talks-to-megyn-kelly-about-smoking-starring-in-new-web-ad-that-has-america-talking and then continues to say, ”I would personally encourage people not to smoke,” but he said that campaign staff felt, “Let Block be Block.”

Perhaps, the image of Block taking a puff of his cigarette is supposed to be part of Cain’s unconventional approach (a campaign for smokers?), similar to his 9-9-9 tax proposal.

Whatever it is, I wonder if it’s the best way to relate to the American voter. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting “Herman be Herman,” but I think the smoke from Block’s cigarette might be clouding this presidential candidate’s view of what the average American voter is really about.

Nishat is a senior in LAS.