October 22, 2010

Storytelling Political Ads: 30 Seconds to Win Your Vote

You can’t watch television right now for more than 10 minutes without being hit by another political advertisement. With less than two weeks to go until the election, the airwaves are dominated by “Vote for Initiative X or Candidate Y.” More often than not the message is negative, telling us why we should vote against Initiative X or Candidate Y.

Most political advertising on television looks the same. Grainy images with dramatic music for the negative ads, colorful smiling pictures with happy music for the positive ones. Someone must think these ads work. CNN reports spending on TV ads for this election could top one billion dollars. No wonder the networks, cable outlets and local stations love political season.

Why so much spending on television? Tim Groeling, Associate Professor of Communications at UCLA, says television has unique advantages as a forum for political messages.

“TV is fundamentally a very emotional medium, very well-suited for communicating emotional information very quickly with the right audiovisual combination of words, music and images. While emotion is dismissed by some as being inferior and unrelated to reason, recent research suggests that the effective use of emotion in political advertising can actually help improve viewers’ reasoning processes and information retention,” Groeling says.

After being bombarded by so much advertising, I decided to seek out political commercials that do more than just attack an opposing position or candidate. I wanted to find ads in this election that effectively tell a compelling story…the same goal we have when we create video for our clients.

Example 1 is from Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Senator Grassley wants to show how he’s in touch with his constituents.

Example 2 is from Rick Snyder, a candidate for governor of Michigan. Snyder is a political newcomer who is relying on his business experience to impress voters.

Example 3 is from Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Feingold uses football as a metaphor to respond to his opponent.

When you watch these political ads, is the candidate’s message clear?

Which ads have you seen lately that have made an impact on you?

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