Another new season of political TV ads is among us. Political ads are fascinating for so many reasons. For those of us in the copywriting craft, they’re a creative throwback. It’s really not advertising as much as it's pure propaganda. And that’s not to say that there isn’t an art form to propaganda. They use all the similar tactics of traditional advertising: simple messaging -- warm and sunny hero shots, etc. When all that fails, they go negative, and that brings all kinds of doom-and-gloom fun: creepy voice-over, ominous slow-mo, and unflattering images of the opponent. Some say “Daisy” from 1964 was one of the best and most persuasive TV spots ever. I mean, who wants a flower-picking girl to be nuked off the planet? Jeez.
The ads are out, and the mud is slinging. My question is this: Is anybody really buying it? Our political system is broken, and in this deep, ongoing recession that just won’t end, the ads signify that none of this matters. It’s big money that controls the powers that be. Money that keeps the status quo the way it is. Two years after "Yes We Can" and "Hope" and "Change" and all those wishes for the best to happen did it? It’s no secret that when the Democrats were polling ahead in 2008, huge contributions came in to back them. Big money knows to back a winner. To no surprise, the Democrats won.
This year, with Republicans expected to come back and possibly win seats, if not control of one or both houses of Congress, the big money flows their way. What does the big money want? Two things: It wants to keep its money, and it wants more of it. This is why when a political TV ad comes on, my eyes roll in an upward fashion. Political contributors don’t donate out of the goodness of their hearts. They want something. Favors, protection, laws that favor anything they do to maximize their bottom line. And contributions are just too tempting to those who seek an elected office. They need the funds. So, sure, they’ll compromise for a few bucks. This is America. Everything is up for sale, including elected officials.
Meanwhile, political advertising fills the airwaves about who are pro-jobs, pro-life, pro-family, pro-responsibility, and just gosh-darn-it-candidates-of-the-people, and who are anti-jobs, anti-family, anti-responsibility, and just the-devil-in-a-three-piece-suit (or pants-suit). Every few years, it’s the same story, and people buy it, astonishingly. They buy into the scare tactics and diversions to protect the interest of big money. The times that big money does indeed feel threatened in an election season, all they have to do is turn on the big-money ad machine and scare people into voting in their interest. It happens all the time, all over the world. You would think, with the rise of the Internet age, that people finally would be on their game. But that takes critical thinking, and darn it, that’s just too hard. Because in the end, big money will get its way. That’s why tobacco is still available, rivers are polluted, and high-fructose corn syrup is in your ketchup. Nothing changes in this country unless there’re gobs of money to be made.
So enjoy this year’s crop of political ads. They are indeed a hoot.