But it quickly took on a life of its own. Barack Obama's camp responded with its own version of the ad, but more important, the candidate fumbled in a rapid response when he sang the praises of John Rockefeller for reading the National Intelligence Estimate and voting against the war. In fact, Rockefeller voted for the war.
Some people worried about the contest turning negative. (IT SHOULD TURN NEGATIVE, PEOPLE!)
The ad also became the topic of late-night comedy. It infested the blogosphere and the web. (Here's a broad Google search for "It's 3 a.m." and here's a Google News search for the same phrase.)
Not too shabby, considering the ad is extremely reminiscent of the "Red Phone" ad Roy Spence created for Walter Mondale in his primary battle against Gary Hart. Marc Ambinder quickly made the connection. But he was told later that Spence had nothing to do with this round. Rather, Mark Penn and Mandy Grunwald were responsible.
Here's the original "Red Phone."
We all know how that primary turned out. We also know how that general election turned out.
And here's the Clinton's "3 a.m." spot.
What might be more surprising is that the spot is being credited by some for putting Hillary over the top. I don't know if I buy that. I think Saturday Night Live (Tina Fey in particular) could claims as much (or more) responsibility for her bump. And I do agree with the Bob Garfield piece linked above that it opens the question up to Clinton's challengers. John McCain, after all, pointed out that he'd be better qualified to answer that phone.
All of this just goes to show that advertising can become the story--especially in an election. It just took a little longer than usual this time around.