“Your First Time.” Dissecting Lena Dunham’s Controversial and Strategically Targeted Obama Ad

27 Oct


     In a presidential campaign season cluttered with the white noise of attack ads and misinformation, along comes a simple and yet metaphorically powerful appeal.

     It comes by way of twenty-something writer, actor, director Lena Dunham.  The star of the HBO series “Girls” has made a name and brand for herself by revealing many of her own coming of age moments.   

     Dunham’s latest self-effacing reveal is her about her “first time.”  No, not that first time.  

     It’s the first time she voted for a president—Barack Obama.

     The sexually tinged metaphor is powerful, if not controversial.   But from a pure communications point of view, it also one of the more strategically targeted and crafted messages of the fall election.

    Let’s break it down.

            Strategy:  Attract Young Women Voters    

    • Competitive Frame:  Apathy
    • Message Argument:  Make your first vote count
    • Target Market:  Young college-aged women “achievers” who’ve never voted
    • Desired Response:  Vote for Barack Obama

     Idea:  Sexual Innuendo

            Execution:  Woman-to-woman couch conversation

     Part of what makes this appeal noteworthy is its simplicity.  There’s no flashing graphics, no dramatic voice-over, no gotcha video clips, no scary music.  To her peer group, Dunham’s girlfriend-to-girlfriend manner commands attention—let’s talk.  Her exposed millennial sleeve tattoo commands credibility—I’m one of you.   

     Together, they give her standing to talk about why they need to “do it” with the right guy: “A guy who cares whether you get health insurance, and specifically whether you get birth control.”

     The metaphors are powerful, the message consequential.  Which is why it has gathered so much criticism.  The independent women’s forum has called it sexist, and writer Ben Shapiro calls it tasteless.  

      Whatever you call it, it’s also very strategic.  

One Response to ““Your First Time.” Dissecting Lena Dunham’s Controversial and Strategically Targeted Obama Ad”

  1. sesweitzer October 27, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    This is a remake of an ad with the same theme from 4 years ago. It featured a bunch of famous women talking about their First Time.

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