The president is up with his first ad. http://youtu.be/sq3GGwgV7R0
When my wife forwarded me this ad, she added the comment that it seemed odd for a first ad. Watching it, I have to agree. You expect the first ad of the President to be bigger, more grand, more sweeping. Instead this ad is a small response ad on energy independence (not exactly a burning issue these days) -- it feels more procedural rather than grand, more tactical than strategic.
Stepping back, I tried to think through the strategy behind leading with this ad. My best guess is that this ad is setting up the message and themes of the campaign. Much in the same why a pitcher might setup his fastball by first throwing a change-up, I believe this ad is intended to prime the electorate.
1) The ad frames the race as Obama v. Billionaires.
With super-pac spending out of control in the Republican primary, this ad is a shot across the bow, that Obama isn't going to take it lying down. It also frames the race for the electorate, who are you going to believe Obama or secretive oil billionaires who are "not tethered to the facts"?
It also dovetails nicely with the theme that Obama is on the side of the middle class, while Romney has secretive oil billionaires on his side. Who's side do you want to be on in that fight?
2) Show that Obama is not just another politician.
It's not about ethic or energy independence per se, those are macguffins for the real message: That he's honest and he's accomplished things other than health care and fighting over budgets.
3) He already is seen as flash, this ad shows some substance.
We've seen Obama talking eloquently to huge crowds, we've felt the passion and flash. This ad is about the substance, the hard work of governing.
This ad stands as a good example of the kind of trench level ad that's part of a larger ad campaign. It frames the story for independent voters, and injects itself into the narrative (responding to attacks against the president). On it's own it's pretty humdrum (and it feels like they cram one line too many into it), but as part of a larger more long term campaign it starts to make sense.