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Persuading the Public

This past trimester in our Government class, we have been focusing on the political aspects of Parties, Elections, Congress, and even the Constitution. While all of these topics are interesting in their own way, I was most intrigued by the influence that a simple thirty-second campaign ad had on me. I caught myself thinking “Wow this makes perfect sense” or even “I hate that guy. Why would he throw someone under the bus like that?” I then realized that all of the people in the ads were our past presidents and legislators who have run our country in a respectable way. We spent a day learning about what made these ads the most gut wrenching and persuasive, and what we found was that we could separate a solid ad into four topics: Emotion, Persuasion, Factual Claims, and Cinematic Style.

The first key to creating a strong campaign ad is to have good emotion. This means that you want to make your viewer really feel something, often times this is called using pathos. You want to make sure that you can toy with your viewer’s heart without them knowing what you’re doing. Many times the objective is to make the viewer feel good about the ad and have a sense of enjoyment so that this will remain in their head and continue to remind them of your point. How do commercials accomplish this? Several common devices used in ads are things such as music and images to provoke typical emotions, but ads will also use devices that we don’t even notice. Many ads will intentionally change the color scheme and the light contrast so as to affect the mood of the viewer in ways which they want.  For instance, studies have shown that the color red actually increases heart rate and breathing giving the sensation of anger to the viewer.

The next factor to consider is Persuasion; this is often completed through reasoning (ethos) or by exploiting the typical wants of individuals. The goal of these types of commercials is as simple as it seems, they are trying to persuade the viewer to take a side. This does not simply mean to pick one candidate over the other, but rather to choose their side regarding a topic portrayed in the ad. Persuasive ads will often times use simple reasoning to convince the viewer, but sometimes custom fitted ads are used for a region in which certain issues are more prominent than in other regions, this is known as a filter bubble. There are also times when an ad will persuade individuals by simply making a promise, “I promise to lower taxes”, and many times these simple and strait forward tactics are the most effective but alone have no real pull on the viewer.

Another key element to creating a solid campaign commercial is the factual claims which are put into the commercial. As the name suggests, this is strictly about the facts (logos) in which the commercial is appealing to the logic which all people possess. Now you may believe that you can trust everything said in a commercial, its part of the FCC’s rules which allow for these commercials to air, right? No, the truth is that these commercial are allowed to stretch the truth as long as “most people” know what is really true. Commercials shouldn’t be taken as fact, but rather as a source to spark interest in the political process. This will in turn allow for individuals to do research and better understand the real issues going on.

The final key to a successful campaign commercial is the cinematic appeal of the commercial, or how well it is made. Be honest with yourself, would you rather watch a commercial with shaky camera work and poor lighting, or one that looks like Steven Spielberg made it? Cinematic appeal breaks down into four basic categories: lighting, camera work, sound quality, and the wow factor (special effects). The lighting aspect is very simple, if you can see the commercial while understanding the mood which the commercial is trying to make you feel just by the lighting, then this has good lighting. If the camera is clear and doesn’t make you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster, then the commercial has accomplished this as well. Sound quality is also very simple; if you can hear everything clearly then this is achieved. The special effects is tougher to do because this is often times based on budget of the commercial, so it is not necessary, but definitely helps when done right.

In conclusion, a solid campaign commercial is one which makes you feel something, convinces you, is truthful, and has good quality. There are not many top notch commercials but I have some commercials which incorporate some or all of the four factors well. So the next time you see a campaign commercial, ask yourself, is this a good one?

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  1. mtmmann
    May 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    first off I would like to say that this is a very good and thoughtful post. I agree with you that these are all factors that are basically necessary for a strong campaign commercial. This is a very good overview/explanation of the four factors that make up a good campaign commercial.

  2. May 2, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Thank you for the imput. This really helps me to know that I am on the right track with my posts.

  3. May 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks for adding “pathos, ethos, and logos” from English class – I LOVE the connections!

    I’d be helpful if you offered at least one example of a advert that you thought was effective… maybe to lead-in to your concluding question?

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