A monthlong ad bombardment of Iowa and New Hampshire by the GOP field begins with the frontrunner, who told WaPo he’s planning to drop $2.1 million to put this on the air in those two states. By comparison, Team Jeb is prepared to spend $14 million on ads in New Hampshire (and the Boston market) alone, including two Super Bowl commercials. But then, Jeb has no choice; if he’s not shoving his way in front of voters during commercial breaks, he’ll go unseen. Trump is ubiquitous on cable and the Internet. This ad will be too, for 24 hours or so. Why pay to put it on TV when TV will bring it to the masses for free?
This isn’t as Trumpy as it could be, as it’s not an attack ad, but it’s still quintessential Trump. It’s a checklist of his most outlandish campaign promises. Getting Mexico to pay for a border wall? Check. Seizing oil fields in Iraq and Syria after ISIS is destroyed? Check. Banning Muslims temporarily from entering the U.S.? Check — and let me say, this is probably the first ad in political history to include the phrase “until we can figure out what’s going on.” (Whether as a sly way to hint that the ban would be indefinite or to reinforce the idea of Washington’s ignorance, Team Trump likes that phrase when addressing this topic.) It’s hard to believe, given the attention these proposals got last year, that even low-information voters haven’t already heard of them and priced them into Trump’s stock, but maybe that’s not the point here. The point may simply be to remind them how different Trumpmania is from political business as usual. If you’re an Iowan, you’ll spend the next four weeks watching the same familiar soft-focus biographical ads from the other candidates with the same familiar vague promises of lower spending, tougher defense, a hopeful future, and so on. Trump’s ad aims to remind you that he’ll go places the professional politicians won’t. That strategy has been gangbusters for him so far in the primaries. In fact, I’d love to see data on how many Trump fans actually believe he’s going to do the things he’s promising here and how many like him simply because he’s willing to broach the topics. One of those groups is more likely to be disappointed by a Trump presidency than the other but they’re equally useful to him on caucus night.
Trump, a guy who’s always been shrewder about media than anything else, including real estate, has good ad sense too:
Trump said that as a producer and star of NBC’s hit reality program “The Apprentice,” he came to appreciate that straight-to-camera ads featuring political candidates are boring or seem manufactured. By contrast, he said, Facebook, Instagram and other social media are more conducive to direct videos.
“We have a lot of the rallies in them and we’ll include more, assuming it looks good and is captured right,” Trump said of his upcoming ads. “I don’t like sitting down and shooting an ad because I don’t think you capture the same energy you see at our events like we had in Mississippi on Saturday,” when he drew throngs to a 15,000-seat arena in Biloxi.
Compare his spot to the second clip below, a new ad from Ted Cruz that’s … straight-to-camera. In Cruz’s defense, he doesn’t have the luxury Trump does of everyone in America already knowing who he is and what he looks like. He needs to be on camera to get acquainted, and he needs the soft-focus direct appeal to take the edge off of his reputation as a too-slick self-interested pol. He also knows his strength is in appealing to conservative principle, especially in contrast to Trump, rather than making promises he knows he won’t keep. That’s why you’re getting Cruz the abstract ideologue here instead of Cruz vowing that he’ll oppose legalization of illegals “today, tomorrow, forever.”