McCain Ad Uses Obama Graphic Design

This showed up briefly on FiveThirtyEight the other day:

McCain Ad with the Obama O

Not only is this bad advertising (all the McCain people are doing is reinforcing the Obama brand identity), it’s also a potential legal problem. If that “speak out” button goes to a donation link, then the McCain people are using the distinctive Obama logo and design commercially, as trademarks. Under the circumstances, it’s pretty easy to make out an argument that some people are likely to click on the link thinking that it’s an Obama ad, and we should all go support his campaign to make sure that this election does turn out the way the 2004 election did. That’s consumer confusion, and trademark law doesn’t like it one bit.

I can’t say more without seeing where that button actually took people. This may not have been about money at all, in which case the free-speech defenses are much stronger. Still, that this ad ran at all, however briefly, is yet another sign of how oddly amateurish the McCain campaign has become. It really is like they just don’t have enough competent people to pay attention to everything, with the result that a lot boneheaded stuff makes it out the door. Contrast this with, say, the Obama camp’s astonishing typographical consistency.

Not to mention they used Arial and a straight apostrophe. Or does that alleviate consumer confusion?