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Ad 1, for Individual 1

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You could reasonably say that campaign season is on when the television ads begin.

If so, then the 2020 presidential is definitely under way, since President Donald Trump has released his first TV ad. And what an ad it is – drastically unusual in one very specific respect.

I’ve seen loads of political TV ads, and helped design a few. They can accomplish a number of things: Make you feel good about the candidate, attack the opponent, highlight an issue.

Trump ad #1 does none of these things.

Oh, it takes a pass at the personal candidate support. In this one, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale is featured, and talks about the candidate, declaring “President Trump has achieved more during his time in office than any president in history.” Because initial ads from incumbents are intended to help rev up the support base, that isn’t so unusual (however highly debatable it may be).

Nor is the eventual appeal to contribute to the campaigns. Most candidates, in one fashion or another, do that too. You can do that by way of a toll-free telephone number highlighted on the screen (also not unusual).

But the pitch for money actually comes later, after you’ve already gotten on the phone. The reason to get on the phone, Parscale says: “I need you to call the number on your screen and deliver a ‘thank you’ to President Trump.”

And later: “We need to let President Trump know that we appreciate what he’s doing for America.”

Or, well, what? He might not run again if not enough people sufficiently feed his ego?

The ad does not hit at any specific reason supporting Trump would be good for either the country or you, the viewer, personally. (There’s a quick runthrough of talking point phrases, but nothing linking any of those things specifically to anything specific Trump did.) The ad at core is about telling Donald Trump how wonderful he is. The phrase “thank you” turns up in it more than anything else. And oh yeah, have your credit card handy.

This is truly something new in political ads. Usually, we’re given at least some sort of a case why we should support candidate A (or oppose candidate B). This one doesn’t do that. It doesn’t give any reason at all. It doesn’t even seem to indicate whether Trump would appreciate it.

There’s no reason at all.

The only point we hear from Trump is at the end when his voice delivers the legally-required message that he approved this ad.

Will be interesting to see how many other people do.

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