Wow. This can only mean one thing: The folks who brought us the “demon sheep” political attack ad are at it again. And an entire genre of US campaign communications may never be the same again.
First, some background. Last month former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who is running for the US Senate in California, released an ad that depicted former US Rep. Tom Campbell, an opponent in the GOP primary, as a glowing-eyed, demonic wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Initial discussion about this ad focused on whether it was the worst such commercial of all time, or merely the worst of the past several years.
Besides the demon sheep, it had Greek columns, lightning, inexplicable floating acronyms, and background music that was more of an atonal hum.
“Demon sheep” was so bizarre, it made the new “Alice in Wonderland” movie look as plain as a C-SPAN broadcast of House proceedings.
But Fiorina campaign officials said they were happy with the buzz the ad produced, and they promised more such salvos in the future.
They weren’t kidding.
“Demon blimp” premiered over the weekend at the California Republican Party’s convention in Santa Clara. Ms. Fiorina’s target this time isn’t a foe in the primary. It’s Senator Boxer (D) of California, the woman whom the ex-computer executive wishes to displace.
The ad begins with scratchy newsreel footage of the young Boxer. The narrator intones, ominously, “No one knows from whence it came.”
Then the ad switches to a Senate hearing. Remember that scene from the beginning of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” where Harry’s Aunt Marge irritates him and she inflates into a giant balloon, drifting away into the sky with Vernon Dursley hanging from her ankle? Well, imagine Boxer as Aunt Marge.
She inflates. Her head blows up bigger and bigger – perhaps this is meant to symbolize a growing ego – until it blows out of the top of the US Capitol and soars over the countryside.
The Boxer Blimp then drifts westward, sitting on a platter of giant video screens, which natter away while horrified onlookers run for cover.
The narrator blames the policies she espouses for job-killing taxes and high unemployment. (The part where Boxer’s voice is compared to fingernails on a chalkboard is a particularly nice touch.)
About halfway through, the whole mood changes, as the special effects disappear and a perky Fiorina talks about how only in America can a medieval history major and law-school dropout who worked as a receptionist become head of a Fortune 500 firm. (That would be her.)
And perhaps only in America do attack ads double as horror movies. In the end, the Boxer Blimp is seen from a distance, plummeting into the Pacific trailing smoke. This is a strange concept if you stop to think about it. So don’t.