What to Make of Political Ads

by Creative Services | August 29, 2014

 post was written by Nekos Barnes, Sr. Multimedia Specialist at cj Advertising.

The first round of midterm elections is over (yay), but the November battles are just gearing up (groan). This biennial infestation of political ads sure does clog up the air waves for those of us in lawyer advertising. But don’t turn the channel yet. Political ads can provide great blueprints for making commercials (and Web videos) for lawyers.

As we enjoy the calm before the November storm, let’s explore the similarities between political and personal injury ads.

Leaps of Faith

Both accident victims and voters are looking for the same thing—someone who can protect them and has their best interest at heart. But here’s the thing. Neither voters nor accident victims ever get to “try before they buy.” Their decisions are leaps of faith based largely on 30-second spots. Yep.

This is where I come in. Before joining cj Advertising, I spent five years conceptualizing, producing, and editing nothing but political ads: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I was in it. I literally made a negative ad that sent an opponent to seek mental help.

On the flip side, I made compelling positive ads about the things our candidates did for the community. From telling the story of a mayor who saved a Pennsylvania iron plant, to showing how a Louisiana congressman helped people find shelter after Hurricane Katrina, my job was to put my candidates in a favorable light and persuade people to take action.

Now, as I enter my third year making Web and TV commercials for personal injury attorneys, I find that lawyers and politicians have similar on-screen personae. And whether I’m producing client testimonials, attorney bios, or ads that attack the insurance companies, I’m using the same approach and storytelling skills to promote cj’s clients.

My Top Five Political Ads

To illustrate what I’m talking about, here are the Top Five Political Ads that have inspired me in my past and current work.

1.  Bill Clinton “Journey”

I have always been a fan of documentary-style filmmaking, and this 1992 ad from Bill Clinton uses a perfect blend of unscripted and scripted lines to make Bill seem natural and approachable.

2.  Lamar Alexander “Thank You”

Everyone in Tennessee remembers Lamar Alexander’s 1984 campaign when he walked across the state, meeting with constituents. I love the way the flashbacks come on screen and I have been known to copy this style in my edits.

3.  Ronald Reagan “The Bear”

I really admire the powerful imagery and subtlety of this ad. Apparently, so did Hillary…

4.  Hillary Clinton “3 A.M.”

Probably the most talked about ad in 2008, “3 A.M.” used the same fear-inducing tone as Reagan’s, ‘The Bear.’ It was panned as much as it was praised, but as the saying goes… it doesn’t matter what people say as long as they’re talking about you.

5.  Barack Obama “Seven”

After the stock market dropped over 750 points in one day, the Obama Campaign released this ad quoting John McCain saying that the fundamentals of our economy were strong. As a producer, the part that really hits me is when the voice actor says ‘hmm.’ It’s a well-timed, scripted moment that packs a serious punch.

Thanks for reading. As more new political ads hit the tube and the Web, please share your favs in our comments section.

Photo credit:  inertia NC