Monday, October 20, 2008

Obama campaign means to place ads before otherwise uninterested eyeballs

I once met a guy who wanted to engage in chit chat, only to find out that the guy had no interests in life other than professional sports. And he wasn’t the athletic type who could play ball – he was a couch potato who watched ball games.

“The perfect life would be nothing but sports, I wouldn’t miss anything else,” he told me.

SO WHEN I learned in recent days of the attempt by the presidential campaign of Barack Obama to interpose their campaign advertising in unique places, he was the one I thought of. Obama is figuring out ways to creep his message into this guy’s life.

For one of the spots he has come up with is a lengthy “infomercial-type” program that he is using his huge campaign kitty to buy airtime on all the network stations simultaneously in prime time on Oct. 29.

What has some people worked up, particularly Republican partisans who are used to the idea of their candidates being the ones with money to burn and resent having to run against a fully-funded Democratic opponent this time around, is that such a date and time would come at the beginning of the World Series game tentatively scheduled to be played that day.

The Republican partisans are literally going so far as to accuse the Obama campaign of being “un-American” for thinking that its campaign message is more important than a World Series game.

NOT THAT ANYONE interested in seeing the game ought to be concerned about missing a minute of activity – the Fox network has worked it out so that the game that night will be delayed (to about 7:35 p.m., Chicago-time, or 8:35 p.m. local time, since this is going to be an all East Coast World Series).

I find it comical that people are getting all worked up about the idea of a Tampa Bay/Philadelphia World Series having to play second fiddle to the campaign season. Of course, there’s always the chance that one team will just rattle off four straight victories and bring the World Series to an end before Oct. 29 – which would make the whole affair a moot point.

It’s not like Fox is pre-empting the broadcast of the World Series game for politics. People will merely have to wait about another 15 minutes before the game actually starts. And for those people who think baseball broadcasts in October already stretch too long, that is the fault of the networks determined to squeeze advertising in between innings – turning postseason baseball into a snoozefest unless one has a personal rooting interest in one of the teams that qualifies (could that be the reason that baseball postseason television ratings for the past decade have been terrible?)

If anything, I think the complaining about the Obama campaign is coming from the partisans who are jealous of the fact that they didn’t think of placing ads just before a World Series game first.

SOME WILL NOTE the significance of getting all those Philadelphia Phillies fans (in fact, all of those Pennsylvania viewers) to see the Obama spot, perhaps helping to sway enough of them to the Obama campaign so that Barack takes the state’s 21 Electoral College votes.

And when Tampa Bay managed to not blow their 3 games to 1 lead in the American League playoffs (winning the AL pennant Sunday night), there is the chance of having the same effect for Florida viewers.

But these spots are probably more important for their national effect. They will reinforce the idea that the Obama campaign is somehow innovative and coming up with new ways of reaching out to people.

I can already envision the coverage and attention Obama will get from people who watch the spots – even if they manage to be offended by them. He’s assured that he will be the national focus that day – just one week before Election Day.

OBAMA BECOMES THE campaign of the 21st Century, compared to the stodgy, old ways of John McCain (whose followers think that because he was a one-time POW during the Vietnam era, that should have made HIM a shoo-in to win the presidential election).

Yet I have to admit that the infomercial just before a World Series game strikes me as the least interesting of Obama’s tactics.

I’m more intrigued by his deal to place campaign ads within video games.

It’s true.

PEOPLE WHO PLAY games that use the Xbox 360 game console will start seeing ads depicting the Obama campaign logo (the capital “O” made to look like a red, white and blue sun rising) in the background.

Most of the games that will have these ads are (you guessed it) games with sports themes.

Now while I have never been much into video games, I have a brother who is. And I have seen that when it comes to the sports games, the key to attracting people to think your game doesn’t stink is to use the latest graphic technology to recreate all the minute details of a ball game.

The figures depicting players have to look human and the configuration of the stands has to look like the real stadiums.

IDEALLY, ANY NOTABLE features of the surrounding neighborhoods also ought to be recreated (such as the bridge beyond the outfield at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, or the “Citgo” sign outside Boston’s Fenway Park, etc.).

We also ought to be able to see the advertising billboards, and ought to be able to read them.

Well, for those people who play the games in the next couple of weeks, those ads are going to be for Obama. You won’t be able to escape it, unless you’re willing to swear off the games until mid-November, which might not be a bad idea).

The trick is that the Xbox has an Internet connection, so that the background details are continually being updated.

THAT GAME YOU purchased this summer will suddenly have new Obama ads for the next few times you play it, and those ads will go away after Election Day (I doubt the Electronic Arts Inc. people will leave them up any longer, since they won’t be getting paid for it).

Besides, if the McCain campaign truly wanted to rebut this trend, they ought to arrange for a digital simulation of John McCain himself to somehow be inserted into the “stands.” He could be seen sitting in a prime seat, “watching” the “game.”

It certainly wouldn't be any more ridiculous than the reality of the 2005 World Series, when former President George Bush and one-time first lady Barbara Bush were seated right behind home plate for the two games played in Houston, with Barbara doing her best to give an "evil eye" of sorts to the White Sox.


EDITOR’S NOTES: People who are offended by the possibility of Barack Obama infomercials delaying the beginning of a World Series game ( ought to root for a quick end to the series to make the issue irrelevant.

The day we see a sports-themed video game with a simulated streaker running across the fake playing field ( is the day that things will have gone too far.

No comments: