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What to Look For in Political Ads
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The U.S. political season is well underway, and things are just starting to heat up. With nearly two dozen GOP candidates flooding the field, and a timid field of Democratic candidates falling in step with the Clinton Machine, it will be interesting to see what kind of political ads will begin to surface once things start to shake out.

It makes sense that we haven't yet seen an onslaught of political ads. It's still too early, and the crowd is still too crowded. Right now, the early primary states are receiving the brunt of the political ads, since those citizens get a major advantage in picking who people should listen to. After Iowa and New Hampshire, we will begin to see more national ads from those candidates whom leave unscathed and victorious.

There are several popular themes in political ads. The biggest one is fear; fear that if the wrong candidate is chosen, the nation will be doomed. Fear that the candidate in charge will falter during a crisis. After that comes the negative ads, the mudraking; trying to cast light on negative publicity and voting records as often and as loudly as possible. The hope is to cast a poor light on the candidate so the average citizen will see the candidate in their "true colors" and think that kind of person shouldn't get their vote.

Not too popular are the policy/position ads. Though considered positive because the political hopeful isn't bashing their opponent, the ad assumes that the average voter is up to date on what other candidates believe, and that the citizen knows exactly what they themselves want. In smaller districts and elections, this method can work, since people are closer to the outcomes. In national elections, this is an option that unfortunately receives little attention.

Finally comes the dream/inspirational ads. Imagining that America is great and fantastic; that people are just a few steps away from the American Dream, and all the citizens need is that candidate who can move them closer to it. This strategy can work, especially — interestingly enough — for those who are farther from their dream than others. As long as the country isn't in a period of disillusionment, these ads work pretty well. When the nation is seeing nothing but trouble, the candidate, when employing this strategy, looks aloof and disconnected. The candidate really needs to know what they're doing in order to pull this off.

And there you have it — political campaigns ads in a nutshell. Let the circus begin.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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