The Washington Post

A season of humdrum primary advertising

The race for president so far has not produced much memorable advertising, at least in the United States. With the exception of Herman Cain's smoker ad, I can't really remember much that was distinctive in the "nananana" that characterizes most of the ads.

There may be reasons for this. With the exception of Mitt Romney — and occasionally Newt Gingrich, when wires from Las Vegas arrive — there hasn't been the money to run that much advertising. As has been noted previously, traditional campaign advertising has been subsumed so far this year by debates, web ads (designed to spark media coverage) and press coverage itself.

This will undoubtedly change in the general election. While the 30-second ad is fading in most categories of marketing, it remains essential in politics. So I look forward to more compelling spots, come the summer and fall.

Until then, I will make do with this remarkable ad from none other than Vladimir Putin's campaign (and brought to light by

And here is the translation.

This ad is breathtakingly horrible, but certainly memorable and perhaps effective, in the same way totalitarian propaganda films sometimes are. Like most totalitarian films, this one reflects the twisted fantasies of its subject: Putin is muy macho. 

But, like all good political ads, this one also plays to people's primal hopes and fears. Maybe the problem with the ads so far is that our electorate isn't hopeful or afraid. It is frustrated and angry, which limits the message-maker's options to making the other guy look more responsible.


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