Monday, February 20, 2012

Political Advertising Then and Now

I enjoyed all of the readings for this one. Jhally describes in “Image-Based Culture” that the image-based influence has spread to the realm of electoral politics. It being an election year and our recent discussions of televised presidential debates, I found one of Jhally’s statements interesting. Jhally stated that there is evidence that suggests that George Bush won the 1988 presidential race because he ran a better ad and public relations campaign. I think one might argue that same point for Barak Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Jhally goes on to say that politics is not about issues; it is about ‘feeling good’ or ‘feeling bad’ about a candidate—and all it takes to change this is a thirty-second commercial.

Negative advertising has been a foundational piece of political advertising for years. However, how many of us would say that we find this method effective or informative? To me the negative tone of political advertising turns me off to the candidate placing the ad than the candidate they are portraying in a negative light. As we are in the middle of the republican primary, negative ads are in full force.

Take this example from the Newt Gingrich campaign aimed at Mitt Romney titled “For the Dogs.”

In contrast, look at this example from Ronald Reagan’s 84 presidential campaign “It’s morning in America again.”

That Ronald Regan ad is arguably one of the famously effective political advertisements of our time. It sparks the emotion that Jhally discussed in “Image-Based Culture” without the negative undertones of many of the political ads out there today.

I’d be interested to hear what other members of the class think. Would you rather see the Regan ad versus the Gingrich negative ad? Does negative advertising spark any particular feeling or emotion toward either of the candidates?

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