Mark McKinnon on McCain's Advertising Strategy
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Mark McKinnon was the genius behind Bush's 2004 media strategy. The Bush campaign successfully portrayed Bush as "a strong leader in a time of change" while redefining Kerry as "weak, waffling, and weird." For more, see the clip above, with McKinnon discussing how they turned 9/11 and metaphors about the "war on terror" to the Bush campaign's advantage.
So does this sound familiar? It's the exact strategy that McCain is applying so effectively in his recent advertising blitz. McKinnon also directed McCain's media strategy up through the primaries, and then in a rare moment of modern day political chivalry, stepped down because of his admiration for Barack Obama. "I would simply be uncomfortable being in a campaign that would be inevitably attacking Barack Obama," said McKinnon. "I think it would be uncomfortable for me, and I think it would be bad for the McCain campaign."
So McCain went forward and hired Rove & McKinnon's junior colleagues to run his general election bid. Here's what McKinnon has to say about the McCain strategy so far.
Mark McKinnon, a media strategist and former McCain adviser who worked for both of Mr Bush's campaigns, said of the advertisements: "I think they've crystallised their message and I think they're hitting a nerve."
Political advertising is effective, he added, when it ties into an overall narrative. In this case, the message has been framed in a positive and negative way: that Mr McCain puts "country first", while Mr Obama puts "Obama first". The theme was repeated in a McCain advertisement released on Wednesday, showing flashing cameras and crowds chanting "Obama" as a voice asks, "Is the biggest celebrity in the world ready to help your family?"