Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Herman Cain's New Ad: Smokin'

Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan, which vaulted him to the lead of the pack of 87 Republican hopefuls, was a nice soundbite at first, but has since been quickly gutted by all the other candidates, not to mention the pundits as well as the poor people who can't afford 9% of nothing. But Cain has taken that early jump in popularity to produce the strangest, perhaps coolest ad a presidential hopeful has made in years. It's nearly avant garde, it's so different.

There are no gloriously billowing flags. Cain is not featured with his sleeves rolled up, engaging in tough talk with farmers and laborers or happily mingling with families and babies. The Statue of Liberty is absent, along with the stirring narrative of one man's rise from nothing to a powerful and rich man.

All we get is Cain's Chief of Staff, Mark Block, looking haggard and road-weary, talking to us head-on in a nearly too close close-up in front of a city building. And then! AND THEN he takes a drag from his smoke and exhales. It is the last thing you'd ever expect to see and yet it is perfection. It might even be a subtle dig at the rumors that Obama has never really kicked his nicotine habit.

And they finish the ad with, as expected, an image of Cain himself, and yet it is not at all what you'd expect in the end-of-spot image of the candidate. The background appears to be simple, vertical window blinds, and a slow, nearly eerie smile creeps across Cain's face.

I think Cain's people have just changed the game of political advertising. Shepherd Fairey was a game-changer with his "Hope" poster, but this thing is nearly an indie film. I expect to see some unexpected people taking a fresh look at Cain after this.

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