Aside from the celebrity angle, which was derided as "frivolous," the ad did make other substantive points about energy. Still, it was clearly the inclusion of images of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears that generated the attention McCain's team was hoping for. Simply put, without those images, we wouldn't be talking about the ad.
My conclusion is that McCain may not be able to compete with Obama when it comes to attracting the attention of the establishment media -- but Paris and Britney sure can. So McCain's team wisely used their images to accomplish his goals.
As today's Washington Times notes,
"Paris Hilton may think John McCain is just a “wrinkly white-haired guy,” but the Republican presidential candidate apparently has figured out the younger generation just fine. Over the past two weeks, his “celebrity” attacks have stomped Democratic presidential opponent Sen. Barack Obama in YouTube hits."Hmmm. It strikes me that this model is not entirely original. In the 1990s, aging rock group Aerosmith faced a similar conundrum. Sure, they were still putting out great rock-and-roll music, but they were far removed from their their prime of the 1970s and 80s (when they broke into the music scene with a string of hits, including "Walk this way," and "Dream on.") In the late 80s, they had a comeback with a relatively decent rock album called "Pump," and also appeared on the SNL skit "Wayne's World" -- but that was before the rise of grunge music (and the death of heavy metal).
Heading into the early 90s, they had to be wondering how they could possibly compete in the MTV video age with up-and-coming stars like Eddie Vedder and
It worked; the videos for Cryin', Amazing, and Crazy were huge hits on MTV -- and Aerosmith successfully launched a second (or was it their third) career comeback.
By teaming their music with younger images, Aerosmith successfully marketed their music to a new generation who otherwise might have viewed them as old fogies.
Did the McCain team intentionally follow this model, or was it more of a coincidence? My guess is that great minds think alike. Still, it's fair to say that right now it looks like McCain owes about as much to Paris and Britney as Aerosmith owes to Alicia and Liv.