The Cynical Brilliance of the Tom Cotton YouTube ad

You know the ad I’m talking about, right? The guy who said, “It’s me again!” in those unskippable fifteen-second YouTube ads for Tom Cotton. That ad. I’ve turned it down and done something else for thirteen seconds so often this last month. And it was effective.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about this ad. We both seized on it as a sign that the Cotton campaign was doing something smart with its fistful of money. I didn’t realize till today just how smart it was.

Think about the character in that ad. What made it so annoying was the part he played. He looked like that jerk who always knows everything, is typically right, is a real jackass, and is a lot of fun to hang out with when he isn’t taking your paycheck on a bar bet.

He depressed me with his vitality in the service of death.

What was your reaction? I suspect it was more weariness than anger. And that’s important.

One of the tactics everyone in politics uses is to demoralize the opponents, getting them to beat themselves with poor morale and thus poor performance. This ad did a bang-up job of doing that, especially among the YouTube demographic, which skews young.

It’s always hard to untangle causality in real-world social science, but if we could in this case, I would bet you cash money a significant number of voters, disproportionately young with all that goes along with that, did not vote due to this ad.

Well played, Tom Cotton, well played.

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