“Shallow but Wild”: Pros Still Matter in Political Advertising

In a Sunday Times Magazine story , Matt Bai looks at the internet’s potential for changing money in politics. Unfortunately, Bai buys into Phil de Vellis’ myth that he is an amateur producer:

[T]he people who make ads for a living now admit that they are losing their mystical hold over the electorate…In this new world, the most effective political ad makers may be amateurs like Phil de Vellis, the Internet consultant who recently took it upon himself to make a powerful pro-Obama ad, based on a famous Apple spot from 1984, that portrayed Hillary Clinton as Big Brother. The ad, which de Vellis made on his Mac in a single afternoon, ricocheted around the Web, reaching millions of Democratic voters. It cost nothing. “This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last,” de Vellis later wrote on the Huffington Post blog. “The game has changed.”

De Vellis may have made the Big Hillary video on his own Mac on his own time, but a man who makes (or made) his living by crafting online strategies for political candidates is hardly the paragon of the empowered citizen producer. Likewise, the touchstone Macaca moment was crafted and nurtured not by a regular Joe, but by a Webb campaign staffer.

Bai’s concludes:

the emerging high-tech marketplace may yet bring us closer to what decades of federal campaign regulations have failed to achieve: a day when candidates can afford to spend less time obsessing over the constant need for cash and more time concerned with the currency of their ideas.

Ann Althouse is not too optimistic about the role of those ideas in the future:

What sorts of ideas will help you win under the new conditions? Blogs and YouTube chew over all sorts of cute little nuggets — odd quotations, gaffes, images. It’s likely to be just as shallow as old-style advertising, but wild and strange and completely uncontrollable.

2 thoughts on ““Shallow but Wild”: Pros Still Matter in Political Advertising

  1. Pros still matter or Prose still matters?

    I would give high marks for a candidate who has a set budget and brings the campaign “in under budget”. is that a qualification for office? fiscal mismangement is something we hate in a politician yet we don’t seem to mind when they are running for office. it takes no imagination to spend money or throw money at a problem.

    we expect so little of politicians when they run and so much of them when elected.

  2. Yes. Scratch a story of amateur power, and you’ll usually find a pro somewhere in the shadows, making a myth to draw in suckers.

    And it won’t be “wild and strange and completely uncontrollable”, that’s part of the fantasy.

    That’s where the money will go – into creating a hierarchy of reliable party-liners who are as controllable as possible. It’ll never be perfect, politics is messy. But the right wing has an awesome machine already, between Fox/Drudge/bloggers, so this is hardly pure speculation.

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