Home > A3, Learning > Style Is Key: The Makings of Campaign Commercials

Style Is Key: The Makings of Campaign Commercials

In Government class this trimester we examined the broad topic of elections, a topic I found very interesting due to its relevance with the upcoming election. Perhaps the most intriguing topic in this unit for me was the study of campaign commercials. Before this assignment, I made note of the campaign commercials, however, never considered their effectiveness, and furthermore, how they accomplished the message they strive to communicate to the American public. The campaign commercials captivated my attention primarily because they are not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of elections. When I think of elections, what comes to mind is televised debates and speeches made by candidates. The study of campaign commercials showed the diverse realms and tactics used in elections to promote a candidate.

In today’s society, campaign commercials prove to be one of the most heavily weighted forms of promoting a candidate. Media has become tremendously more prevalent in society, and a powerful 30-second ad can quickly communicate ideals and beliefs a president holds without having to tune in to watch an hour-long debate. Political expert Arthur Sanders sums up the importance of campaign commercials over all other sources of media by stating, “Ideally, you’d rather have (voters) paying attention to debates. But they don’t. That’s why people use TV ads. They are the most powerful way still to reach voters who are only paying limited attention to a campaign. … People who see TV ads usually end up knowing more about candidates than people who don’t.”

In an increasingly fast pace world, a 30-60 second commercial tends to be significantly more appealing than a two hour debate.

Before this assignment, the time and careful planning it takes to create these commercials never crossed my mind. After completing the assignment and critically analyzing these commercials, I came to a general conclusion on how these commercials are created. I believe that in order to make an effective campaign commercial, one must first consider what the message or topic is that is to be communicated to the audience. Next, they must consider whom they are targeting. In other words, who is the audience? This is important because the style to create the commercial is based off of age group and general audience, as different tactics appeal to different crowds. Once the audience is established, they must consider how the idea will be communicated. What will the cinematic style be, and what method will they focus on the most? Persuasion, factual information, or emotional appeal?

The ultimate goal of campaign commercials is to draw support for a candidate, and that is accomplished in a variety of ways. Personally, the videos that I found most impactful were those that had a unique stylistic approach. As it can be concluded, the commercials with a person simply speaking about what they will do in the future or what they have done is quite boring and causes many to lose interest. I believe that the cinematic style is the most important aspect of campaign commercials. While others may argue that persuasion is key, I believe that in order to effectively persuade the audience, the commercial must be interesting and captivating as the ads are commonly less than a minute. They must quickly grab your attention, therefore relying first on the stylistic aspect. Music, voice-overs, images, and layouts are all examples of cinematic factors. Often images are much more impactful, powerful and memorable than a person simply speaking about an issue. Cinematic style is also key in properly addressing and engaging audience. For example, a more creative and modern style is used to target the younger generation, as they will respond and relate better to it. I think the persuasion, factual, and emotional results experienced are built off of the foundational cinematic style. In other words, an emotion may be evoked based on the degree of successfulness of utilizing stylistic approaches.

For example, Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign commercial effectively puts to use a unique cinematic style. Taking one of Obama’s speeches and having it spoken and sung by others, while at the same time reinforcing Obama’s campaign slogan, “yes we can”, was a tool that was very successful. This was not only very interesting, it was memorable and successfully summed up his platform through the use of music, as well as the video image of Obama’s speeches. The two factors of his factual speech and interesting style together made the commercial particularly powerful. With an interesting and unique style, you will want to watch the video again, and possibly even share it with friends, and that is exactly what the candidates want: exposure.

Visit the linked website to further study campaign commercials and the large range of styles and tactics used to communicate ideas.

  1. abb459
    May 1, 2012 at 10:04 am

    You did a GREAT job on your reflection! One of the things that I thought you did really well was putting the link to the campaign commercials website so that we could go back and look at all of the different aspects of an effective campaign commercial that you mentioned in your reflection. I also though you did a nice job stating what you personally think makes a effective campaign commercial. What you said about voters being much more likely to watch a 30-second commercial than an hour-long debate is very true.

  2. laurene12
    May 1, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I enjoyed reading your post and thought you did a great job at adding your personal opinion and voice into an issue that we talked about in class. The only suggestion that I would make would be to add a paragraph explaining what each of the styles means in more deatial rather then just stating that these are the styles. Great job.

  3. nejohnston7
    May 1, 2012 at 10:20 am


    Your reflection post is excellent! I think you did a great job reflecting and taking your knowledge that you learned in government and applying your own twist. Just a suggestion, you might want to add another external link, picture or video to your post. Also, splitting up your paragraphs might hold the attention of the audience a bit better. Awesome post!

  4. May 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Great job!

    … just a couple of quick thoughts: 1) You ask about which “method will they focus on the most? Persuasion, factual information, or emotional appeal?” (paragraph 3). I wonder if it would be better re-phrased to suggest that commericals work to perusade by two methods: an emotional appeal or factual information… and it’s possible that producers need not choose; instead they could include elements of each method in effective ads.

    and 2) you write that: “The ultimate goal of campaign commercials is to draw support for a candidate…” Is that always the case? I would say that attack ads often seek to tear other candidates down instead – and some of your classmates would argue that this is unfortunate and ought to stop. What do you think of negative campaign ads – are they effective, too?

  5. christinab12
    May 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you so much for the feedback! I do believe rephrasing the sentence to state that commercials work to persuade by two methods, both emotional appeal or factual information is more correct. Following that, I also believe it is perfectly plausible that both methods could be successfully used in ads together. The emotional appeal certainly works to captivate the audience and persuade them by relying on their feelings and passions evoked when that method is employed. The factual information aids in persuasion by illustrating the candidates qualifications. The two methods together would dramatically enhance the delivery of the message.

    Addressing the issue of attack ads, I believe that while they tear one candidate down, they are ultimately drawing support for other candidates as it will make them appear superior and as a better and more qualified choice than the attacked candidate. I do believe that negative campaign ads are effective because they instill fear and doubt in the public as to whether or not the attacked candidate is qualified and can successful lead the country. That fear may ultimately lead them to support a different candidate. Although they are effective, I do not fully support attack ads. In most cases, they are exaggerations of the truth and I believe there are other methods that are not as detrimental to a candidate’s reputation than attack ads. Ads with the pure intention of drawing support can be equally effective if executed correctly.

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