With elections just around the corner, Advertising Age published a great article outlining “The Top 10 Game-Changing Political Ads of All Time.” What made these ads memorable and why were they “game changers”? Advertisements like television spots, radio spots and even print advertising (like yard signs, magazine ads, etc.) have mere seconds to make an impact on a viewer make every second count.
Visuals do play a strong role in the world of advertising, but when it comes to politics, the language used plays a crucial role. You have to be very strategic combining your powerful message while using verbal techniques and emotional appeal.
Here is the list that Ad Age published as “The Top 10 Game-Changing Political Ads of All Time” and here are our comments on some of them:
1.Peace, Little Girl (“Daisy”)
Who can forget the most controversial political ad put out by President Lyndon Johnsons team,” Daisy”? You may have not been around in the 60s, but this television spot is famous because it displayed a little girl, who represents the youth of America, innocently pulling petals off a flower, then cuts to a nuclear explosion with a voice-over of a countdown.
This ad instills fear, especially when the spot zooms into the girls wide eyes as she looks up into the sky. Even the language used was meant to be a scare tactic. Words and phrases like “these are the stakes,” “make a world in which all of Gods children can live in or go home in to the dark,” “love each other or we must die,” and “stakes are too high” combines the emotion fear with over tones of taking action.
2.Prouder, Strong, Better (“Morning in America”)
Any time a candidate is faced with economic troubles, their campaigns focus on confidence, faith, and hope with voters. President Ronald Reagans “Morning in America” combined both visuals and language that did just that. If you listen to what was said you can easily identify what phrases were “positive.” “More men and women will go to work than ever before,” “interest rates at about half the record highs,” “2,000 families will buy new homes, more than at any time,” and it continues. What President Reagan did was list accomplishments and showed how he is moving America in a positive direction — which makes this ad and his message very powerful.
This ad is what we see more of and could be labeled as “propaganda.” However, Ad Age identifies this as a definite game changer. This spot combines a somewhat humorous footage of Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis riding in a tank with statements about how he opposes our defense system. The effect there decreased the confidence America had in him to be President. The ad goes on to say how America cant afford that risk and how could he expect to be our commander in chief when he opposes Americas defense efforts. There are overtones of sarcasm while portraying Governor Dukakis as someone who doesnt have what it takes to defend America, much less run America.
4.Yes, We Can
This video is different from most political ads and wasnt actually done by President Obamas team; instead, it was created by Will.i.am. and Jesse Dylan. This video took parts of President Obamas speech and used them as lyrics. During a time of financial crisis and economic downfall, this ad was successful because of the language. Phrases like “Not divided, were one nation” and “next great chapter,” and the entire video had huge overtones of hope. It made America feels like “Yes, we can” make the changes we need to move in a positive direction.
5.Man in the Arena
This spot geographically targeted Michigan and at the time President Bush was losing in polls to the opposing candidate, Pat Buchanan. The economy was down, support for the GOP was down and specifically in Michigan, the auto industry wasnt performing well either. At the time, it appeared that President Bushs chances were slim, until this spot was released. It exposed Buchanan contradicting his message “America First” because he had a foreign car and also labeled American-made cars as “lemons.” This ad exposed Buchanan as being deceitful.
8.Dean for America
This ad exposed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as someone who cant make up his mind. It gives various scenarios where Kerry was opposing and supporting various issues. It pokes fun of Kerry windsurfing in different directions and paired it with “which way the wind blows” to ultimately show that he is unfit for being President.
Language in political advertisements is carefully chosen and works with multiple elements (e.g. visuals and emotional appeal) to convey a message. You have to be strategic and most importantly you need to be memorable. The above examples work because they succeeded in all those aspects. They used visuals and carefully crafted language to depict the politicians intent.
Same can apply to other campaign materials and your political yard signs. You need to strategically craft what your message it is and how youre going to make your signs distinct and memorable.