Doug Mills/The New York Times
Mr. Obama’s campaign agreed to provide The New York Times with a minute-long trailer for the 30-minute program, which is to run on four broadcast networks at 8 p.m. It will be the first time in 16 years that a presidential candidate has bought network time, in prime time, for a prolonged campaign commercial.
The trailer is heavy in strings, flags, presidential imagery and some Americana filmed by Davis Guggenheim, whose father was the campaign documentarian of Robert F. Kennedy. As the screen flashes scenes of suburban lawns, a freight train and Mr. Obama seated at a kitchen table with a group of white, apparently working-class voters, Mr. Obama says: “We’ve seen over the last eight years how decisions by a president can have a profound effect on the course of history and on American lives; much that’s wrong with our country goes back even farther than that.”
Then, while standing before a stately desk and an American flag, Mr. Obama, in a suit, says: “We’ve been talking about the same problems for decades and nothing is ever done to solve them. For the past 20 months, I’ve traveled the length of this country, and Michelle and I have met so many Americans who are looking for real and lasting change that makes a difference in their lives.”
Jim Margolis, Mr. Obama’s senior advertising strategist, said the program would then go on to feature “the stories of four different Americans, or American families, and kind of what they’re confronting.”
He said the stories would highlight “the challenges people are facing and what we should do in terms of solutions.” He said Mr. Obama would also share the story of his mother, “who struggled through her bout with breast cancer and the difficulty she had with her insurance company, to help viewers understand why his health care reform program is what it is.”
It will also have a live component, featuring Mr. Obama at a rally in Florida. The infomercial has been under production for weeks in the Virginia office of Mark Putnam, whose firm, Murphy-Putnam, is part of the Obama advertising team.
The program is to be shown on NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision, MSNBC and two cable networks that cater to African-Americans, BET and TV One. Ross Perot, the last presidential candidate to run similar programming, broadcast eight long infomercials to an average of 13 million viewers, with one of them getting 16.5 million viewers.
Costing the campaign more than $3 million, the infomercial is the ultimate reflection of Mr. Obama’s spending flexibility. Mr. McCain, with far less money in the bank, has been unable to produce a similar commercial.
The McCain campaign has seized on the advertisement as excessive, with Mr. McCain pointing to reports that Mr. Obama’s infomercial would bump back the World Series on Fox by 15 minutes. “No one will delay the World Series with an infomercial when I’m president,” he said, in Hershey, Pa.
(Fox executives have said that they, and not the Obama campaign, had initially asked Major League Baseball to move the start of Wednesday’s game to 8:35 p.m. from 8:20, to make way for his infomercial. But as it turns out, such a delay was not necessary anyway; none of the World Series games has started before 8:30, and two started after 8:35.)
For its part, Mr. Obama’s campaign said it was not worried about turning off viewers.
“Many people have 150 channels; they’ve got plenty of other choices,” Mr. Margolis said. “Or they can drop into a video game.” Then again, Mr. Obama is advertising in video games, too.