Creatively clever? Yes. A deft bit of animation? Definitely. But also, frankly, problematic. The ads end with the tagline “Silence him”—which not only uncomfortably connects to leftist “cancel culture” that infuriates so many people on the right, but could be read as an attack-by-proxy on heartland voters who think of Trump as their voice.
In the end, the ballot bubbles spots were eerily reminiscent of another famous animated political ad from Democrats: “Donald Trump’s Immigration Inkblot,” released by Hillary Clinton’s campaign in September 2016.
In an Ad Age cover story that month headlined “Yes he can? Here’s how Trump could win,” we described the inkblot ad as “arty and weird and visually striking” and “also all wrong as a piece of persuasive political advertising.”
Trumpism is a religion—an unshakeable political faith for millions of Americans
In late October, in a column titled “Why Trump’s re-election still seems likely,” The Week’s Matthew Walther wrote of the “enthusiasm of his most fervent supporters, who love him as no president has been loved since Kennedy or perhaps even FDR.” That level of passion is hard for a lot of Democrats to grasp, because their own party has served up candidates such as Hillary Clinton (who even many Democrats strongly dislike) and Joe Biden (who, at least, is a likeable career politician and reliable Establishment figure, but is no Kennedy or FDR).
Trumpism—Trump fandom—at its most extreme is essentially a religion. Bidenism not only isn’t, it doesn’t even exist.
Religion is not, of course, about logic. Ergo, disciples aren’t looking for logic—or consistency or even incontrovertible facts—from their religious leaders. And true believers are sure as hell not susceptible to strident, self-proclaimed voices of truth that seek to poke holes in their faith.
There’s no getting around the fact that traditional advertising—persuasion marketing—fails miserably in this realm.
Fox News, the TV church of Trumpism, is an unstoppable political marketing force
In an October edition of Ad Age Campaign Scorecard, we reported that,
At the national TV level, no network has done better than Fox News when it comes to sopping up revenue from campaign ads. It’s no surprise the Trump campaign spent the most—$19.5 million—on placing ads on Fox News during the post-primary season; it is, of course, the TV-Viewer-in-Chief’s favorite channel. But Joe Biden also spent $6.1 million on Fox News during the post-primary season—within spitting distance of the $6.6 million his campaign spent on CNN. Throw in some miscellaneous PAC money, and Fox News pulled in a total of $26.3 million in presidential campaign ad dollars in the space of six months.
Let’s face it: $6.1 million is a lot of money for any campaign, but as a bulwark against the relentlessly anti-Biden, pro-Trump messaging delivered during Fox News primetime, it’s hopeless—and pointless.
And here we come full circle: First and foremost among the “uncontrollable inputs that can neuter the impact of the traditional political advertising” that we mentioned above? Fox News.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell can (and do) talk themselves blue in the face every night carefully documenting assorted Trump outrages and misdeeds. But their approach is explanatory, plodding, professorial—and no match for the tent-revival tone of Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson over on Fox News.
The Democrats are busy delivering college lectures while the Republicans are holding worship services. In 2020, no amount of advertising can bridge that gap.