wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

‘America the beautiful’: The most memorable ad of the 2012 campaign (so far)?

at 12:57 PM ET, 08/06/2012

Katy Perry has nothing on Mitt Romney when it comes to getting their songs on the air.

The GOP presidential candidate’s dulcet tones, it seems, have been playing in great rotation on cable TV stations for ages now via the Obama campaign’s “America the Beautiful” ad, which features Romney singing the song (poorly) over scenes of the far-off places where he has bank accounts and where Bain Capital outsourced jobs.

The ad, which went off the air Monday, strikes us as perhaps the most memorable of the cycle so far, if not necessarily the most impactful.

The reason? It’s utterly unavoidable.

To The Fix, it seemed as though the ad has been on the air for months. (Maybe we just watch a lot of “Real Housewives.”) In fact, the campaign initially released it less than four weeks ago. But in addition to its heavy airplay, it has also been viewed more than 2.2 million times on YouTube — the most-viewed campaign ad on Obama’s YouTube channel.

An Obama campaign aide said the ad hasn’t run for longer than many national cable buys and that’s it has now been replaced.

“It’s a little slower in getting rotated out than broadcast TV,” the aide said. “This is not sort of a case where we’re intentionally stretching it out.”

But the ad’s four-week run has been notable.

In advertising, half the battle is simply getting people to tune in and process the information that's being broadcast — something that’s harder and harder in the age of TiVo, computers, etc. The reason this ad works is because it’s just so hard to ignore that voice singing that song over and over again.

It’s why campaigns so regularly employ jingles and campaign songs (from “I Like Ike” to “Mike, Mike, Mike Weinstein!”); they get stuck in your head. It’s easy to gloss over an ad about in-the-weeds Bain stuff or Romney’s tax returns; you can’t ignore a middle-aged guy with (apparently) no formal singing lessons belting out such a familiar tune.

Second, the ad plays into the Obama campaign’s overall message, which is one of Romney being out of touch with average Americans. The scenes of Cayman Islands beaches and a Swiss flag accompany headlines of Romney’s reported outsourcing and offshore accounts quite nicely. The ad is visually striking — if less so than the audio.

The ad is also one of the most-controversial of the cycle so far.

Republicans allege that it’s an under-handed attempt to play class warfare and make fun of a guy who was, after all, doing something patriotic.

“It is a mean-spirited ad designed to ridicule someone who is trying to do something nice — albeit he’s not a great singer,” said GOP media consultant Dan Hazelwood. “The purpose of this ad is not to affect swing voters one iota. It is to instill a visceral hatred into the Democrat base to motivate them to get out and vote.”

Republicans also argue that the ad could backfire. After all, this is a guy singing a patriotic song over and over again on people’s TVs. And if the Obama campaign’s use of it turns people off — or if they they only remember the GOP nominee singing a patriotic song — maybe that could even help Romney.

We’ll never know for sure how well it has worked.

But for the last month of the campaign, this ad has defined the air wars.

 
Read what others are saying