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Leah McElrath Headshot

Five Reasons Why the Obama Infomercial was Worth the Cost

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Let's be honest: the Obama infomercial was about comforting white Americans -- especially middle and working class white Americans. That said, it was arguably necessary and -- for what it was -- very effective.

Although only time will tell, it appears that the Obama infomercial accomplished exactly what it needed to do: soothing skittish white undecided voters without alienating current supporters.

1. With a set evocative of the Oval Office, Obama's presence in the piece served as a preview to what it would look like if he were to be elected as President. By providing a chance for the still uneasy undecideds to envision this future, it will likely work to move some of those voters out of their reluctance. Despite the McCain campaign's increasingly strident assertions to the contrary, Obama gave every appearance of being more than "ready" to step into the role of a world leader.

2. By showing numerous photos of Obama interacting with white working class Americans of different ages (in addition to black and Latino Americans), the infomercial leveraged the power of visual imagery to contextualize Obama as "one of us" within the minds of those voters. This is a welcome and much-needed change from advertisements by the campaign that have, up until now, sometimes focused too much on words alone to convey their messages. In addition, the narratives within the piece evoked emotional response and connection -- again, very welcome and somewhat different than the frequently more conceptual and cognitive appeal of previous Obama campaign advertising.

3. For those who resonate to the cognitive, the infomercial also clearly presented (again) specifics of Obama's plans to address the most pressing issues on the minds of many voters. If you believe their words, undecided voters tend to respond well to specifics and to talk about "needing more information" when asked about why they continue to be undecided.

4. If, however, you do not believe the words of the undecided voters tell the whole story, the piece was still effective. By any objective measure, Obama came across as reasonable, knowledgeable and -- most importantly for the sake of television -- likeable. As anyone who is familiar with media knows, that is the primary goal of any television appearance. People seldom remember more than one point someone makes (if they even recall one) when they appear on television, but they are strongly affected by how the person comes across.

5. Within the biographical parts of the piece, Obama's life story was reiterated as epitomizing the American dream. Certainly it can be said that it would take someone very determined to continue to characterize Obama as a "terrorist" within their own minds after watching the infomercial -- and those people would never vote for him anyway. Additionally, when Obama talked about his mother's death and about his own lack of perfection -- saying even "I will not be a perfect president" -- his humanity came through powerfully.

The Obama infomercial was a risk -- but the piece will likely go down in history as yet another way that the Obama campaign has forever changed the face of political campaigning through its creative use of media.