Raising Cain

31 10 2011

It is still a year and one week until the next presidential election occurs in the US, but already the campaigns are heating up. And marketers are bouncing around like kids on caffeine.

Take, for example, the latest web ad from GOP candidate Herman Cain. It’s smokin’. Literally.


Talk about controversy. Who features smoking in ads anyway? What the hell was Cain thinking? “If I am elected, I promise a pack of smokes in every pocket and purse.”

Sure. Excuse me while I exhale a liter of sarcasm.

Cain’s ad has drawn more attention than just about anything the rest of the GOP wannabes can serve up right now, and has been parodied all over late night television. Which can mean only one thing:

Herman Cain has some darn savvy people working for him.

While I am disgusted with even the notion of smoking, I acknowledge that Cain has managed to break through the clutter to get our attention. If his 9-9-9 plan isn’t getting through (and it apparently isn’t, since it has so many detractors), an attention-getting ad can work wonders.

Furthermore, while social media play a role in his campaign (he uses video clips widely on his site, features a Twitter feed, and has no problem with the video spreading virally), we must also recognize that he is also using somewhat old school media here. Whereas President Obama relied almost exclusively on tweets in 2008, Cain is taking a very different tack. In the process, he has gained an incredible amount of traction among the other 6 contenders with whom he sparred in Las Vegas recently. You know, he might just make it. He might just be the GOP nominee.

And if you think this nation had a holy crap moment in 2008 with the first African-American candidate, and then President, just consider the implications of a duel between two African-Americans. Martin Luther King, Jr., must be smiling down from heaven.

We have come a long way. And we have also come a long way from the day in which 1 in 3 Americans smoked (it’s now more like 1 in 5). Would the ad have been any less believable if it didn’t have the one last drag on the cigarette? And for that matter, what about that creepy smile Cain cracks at the very end. Yikes. I doubt the ad would have been less effective, but it may have been more believable had Cain not gone goofy.

While I hope that Cain’s ad doesn’t glamorize smoking, I have to salute a person who can so decisively find his way to the top of the discussion heap. He left the door wide open for parody, but sometimes even parody can yield positive results.

In the mean time, I just need to figure out if this 9-9-9 business is worth inhaling more than a cigarette.

Dr “The Heat Is On” Gerlich



One response

31 10 2011
Jack Brown

Dr. Nick, you left out something important. Smoking is not the only weird bit in this: Do you think even 1 in 5 Americans still listen to disco music? He’s definitely going after some shock value, and he’s succeeded. I just wonder how long shock value will bump him up.

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