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Did Obama team lay an egg with its Big Bird video ad?

October 9, 2012 by NCC Staff


Was the Barack Obama campaign wasting its time on reminding voters that Mitt Romney wants to end a subsidy that helps Big Bird stay on TV? Sesame Street now wants the ad pulled, and one journalist says the tactic may have hurt the Obama campaign.


A controversial video ad from the Obama campaign will likely have a short life online, after the company behind Sesame Street asked for the ad to come down from the Internet late Tuesday morning.


“Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down,” the company said in a statement


On Tuesday, the web site Politico had its viewpoint on the latest jab from Team Obama: the web video that jokingly compares Big Bird with Bernard Madoff as Wall Street villains, at least in the supposed eyes of Mitt Romney.


The video spot also repeats a recent tagline that alleges Romney is more interested in Sesame Street than Wall Street.


President Obama also made a joke last night at a fundraiser about another Sesame Street icon, Elmo, fleeing the country “in a white Suburban” if Romney is elected.


“Finally, somebody is cracking down on Big Bird,” Obama said in San Francisco. “Elmo has been seen in a white Suburban. He’s driving for the border.”


Politico points out that why the Obama tactics are trying to use social media, as a way to reach people, it could have unintended consequences.


“The president, as others have noted, and his team have been going fairly small at a moment when Romney is consistent in a message and pivoting toward going bigger (the foreign policy speech, more emotion on the trail, and so forth). And this video is the kind of small ball that Boston smacked over for months,” says Maggie Haberman.


On Tuesday, NBC correspondent Pete Alexander said the Obama Big Bird video is part of the “absurd back and forth in this election season.”


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The Romney team has responded to the Big Bird campaign by listing a graphic that claims President Obama has talked about Big Bird and Elmo about 13 times in recent days, but hasn’t mentioned Libya or fixing the economy.


A Romney spokeswoman was more blunt.


“With 23 million people struggling for work, incomes falling, and gas prices soaring, Americans deserve more from their president,” Amanda Henneberg said in a statement.


The GOP hasn’t really brought up Romney’s comments from last December in New Hampshire, which have surfaced anew, that state he wouldn’t kill off Big Bird anyway.


“I’m not going to make Big Bird go away, but there’s going to be advertising on PBS if I’m president,” he said last year.


Partial government funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has been a hot topic in Washington for years, and at least one byproduct of the Big Bird flap is more attention on the issue.


And it has been a boon to Big Bird, who appeared in a “Saturday Night Live” comedy routine last weekend.


But perhaps the real story behind the Big Bird push is the struggle for candidates to find messages that stick in the social media world.


The phrase “Big Bird” appeared 17,000 times every minute on Twitter right after the debate


Facebook later said Big Bird was the fourth most-mentioned topic on Facebook during the debate, getting more attention than topics like jobs, taxes, Jim Lehrer and Obamacare.


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