Was Pajama Boy a set-up?

Megan McArdle of Bloomberg thinks that opponents of ObamaCare are being played by Organizing for Action (aka America for Obama, aka barackobama.com). The goal of the tweet was, in her view, to rile up the right, in order to cause the left to rally around in defense, and ultimately donate to OFA:

The purpose of Pajama Boy is not to get people to buy health insurance, but to get a rise out of conservatives -- and thereby to engage the solidaristic, money-raising, meme-spreading power of OFA's liberal base.

Here's the tell: Pajama Boy is not a good ad. Whatever you think about progressives, they are in most ways perfectly normal people. Normal people do not, at the age of 26 or so, want to spend their holiday in footy pajamas, listening to their parents harangue them about fiscal responsibility. Good ads usually do one of three things: they make you want to be more like the person in the ad; they make you want to date the person in the ad; or they engage you and the maker of the ad as knowing co-conspirators in laughing at that terrible person in the ad, whom you are not at all like in any way.

Although I admire Ms McArdle's other writing on Obamacare (she brings a former code-writer's expertise to her analysis of the website problems)I have to say I am skeptical here. In the first place, the OFA folks are aiming this ad at getting parents to lean on their children to sign-up on Obamacare exchanges. I believe that Pajama Boy was chosen to pull on the heartstrings of women of a certain age, the kind who can never quite accept that their little boy has grown up. McArdle actually acknowledges this:

Maybe this ad is going to rope in a few liberal parents who wish their sweetie would get back into his flannel PJs and drink cocoa while Mommy tells him what to do . . . but no, this is just not a good ad. Anyone whom it would convince is the sort of person who has had an Obamacare countdown calendar on her desk for three years now and checks Healthcare.gov with a mechanical frequency only usually found in lab rats who can get illegal drugs by pressing a lever.

This analysis, while amusing, ignores one of the major goals of much advertising: to get people to do what they already are inclined to do, but just don't do soon enough or often enough -- buy insurance, drink another Coke, or send a Valentine's Day box of chocolates.

In the second place, the analysis depends on the same sort of reasoning conspiracy theorists often use: that something is done with the perfect certainty of the reaction that will take place, so that the real goal is not the obvious one, but rather a second-order response to the first response. Rarely in life, and especially in advertising, is such certainty possible.

Third, the Obamacare advocates are currently floundering and panicking. They are in no position to take the Olympian view of manipulating their opponents. They have no leisure for that.

I am also not so sure that her contention that progressives, especially the sort of progressives who devote themselves to OFA, are "perfectly normal people." Certainly not in the midst of the meltdown of the primary goal of their beloved president. They are caught in a nightmare and acting stupidly, in the phrase their lightworker used to describe the Cambridge Police.

So, I am not convinced. I wonder if Megan was having some holiday fun with us.

Megan McArdle of Bloomberg thinks that opponents of ObamaCare are being played by Organizing for Action (aka America for Obama, aka barackobama.com). The goal of the tweet was, in her view, to rile up the right, in order to cause the left to rally around in defense, and ultimately donate to OFA:

The purpose of Pajama Boy is not to get people to buy health insurance, but to get a rise out of conservatives -- and thereby to engage the solidaristic, money-raising, meme-spreading power of OFA's liberal base.

Here's the tell: Pajama Boy is not a good ad. Whatever you think about progressives, they are in most ways perfectly normal people. Normal people do not, at the age of 26 or so, want to spend their holiday in footy pajamas, listening to their parents harangue them about fiscal responsibility. Good ads usually do one of three things: they make you want to be more like the person in the ad; they make you want to date the person in the ad; or they engage you and the maker of the ad as knowing co-conspirators in laughing at that terrible person in the ad, whom you are not at all like in any way.

Although I admire Ms McArdle's other writing on Obamacare (she brings a former code-writer's expertise to her analysis of the website problems)I have to say I am skeptical here. In the first place, the OFA folks are aiming this ad at getting parents to lean on their children to sign-up on Obamacare exchanges. I believe that Pajama Boy was chosen to pull on the heartstrings of women of a certain age, the kind who can never quite accept that their little boy has grown up. McArdle actually acknowledges this:

Maybe this ad is going to rope in a few liberal parents who wish their sweetie would get back into his flannel PJs and drink cocoa while Mommy tells him what to do . . . but no, this is just not a good ad. Anyone whom it would convince is the sort of person who has had an Obamacare countdown calendar on her desk for three years now and checks Healthcare.gov with a mechanical frequency only usually found in lab rats who can get illegal drugs by pressing a lever.

This analysis, while amusing, ignores one of the major goals of much advertising: to get people to do what they already are inclined to do, but just don't do soon enough or often enough -- buy insurance, drink another Coke, or send a Valentine's Day box of chocolates.

In the second place, the analysis depends on the same sort of reasoning conspiracy theorists often use: that something is done with the perfect certainty of the reaction that will take place, so that the real goal is not the obvious one, but rather a second-order response to the first response. Rarely in life, and especially in advertising, is such certainty possible.

Third, the Obamacare advocates are currently floundering and panicking. They are in no position to take the Olympian view of manipulating their opponents. They have no leisure for that.

I am also not so sure that her contention that progressives, especially the sort of progressives who devote themselves to OFA, are "perfectly normal people." Certainly not in the midst of the meltdown of the primary goal of their beloved president. They are caught in a nightmare and acting stupidly, in the phrase their lightworker used to describe the Cambridge Police.

So, I am not convinced. I wonder if Megan was having some holiday fun with us.

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