I will just come out with it. Political video ads are awful. It has nothing to do with the political landscape, although it doesn't help. The problem with them is not the content, but the fact that they do not take into consideration what really makes promotional videos successful at this point and time. They're stuck in the old way of thinking and that has to change.
As consumers, we no longer want to be told what we want. A commercial just telling us something leaves us very suspicious. Who could blame us? As time has gone on, most of the Western World has been bombarded with more and more advertisements, and that has made us cynical. We don't want to be told what to buy. We want someone to start us down a path that leads us to making the decision to buy. And really, it's the same damn thing with political ads.
Since we are at the tail end of probably the most contentious Midterm Election in this country's history, we have all been seeing a lot of ads by candidates or PACS that are telling us why we should or should not vote for someone. A lot of the time they are goofy or hyperbolic, which, when you are trying to choose the leaders of your state and country, can be very unsettling. Such as this video from Dan Helmer, who tried and failed to get the Democratic nomination for a US House seat in Virginia.
Helmer Zone - Dan Helmer Campaign - https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=CDfhFfKSohc
I love Top Gun as much as the next person. And give them credit. This spot has a lot more production value than a lot of campaign ads out there. The problem is that this gimmick is juvenile and tells us very little about Mr. Helmer. I know he is a veteran because of his shirt. I know he disapproves of Barbara Comstock because of the words of the song, but we'd know that any way because he is running to take her seat. He also tells us that he likes town hall meetings (well at least he's willing to talk in public) and bad singing (who isn't but I don't know why I care about this in my elected official). The only debate this really incites is how much of a goof is he really. At least this is nowhere near as bad as the stuff the Super PAC's release on a regular basis.
Congressional Leadership Fund - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O27BquQuL0
Aren't these ad's just the worst. This one is from the conservative leaning Congressional Leadership Fund, but it looks no different than the videos coming out of the Liberal PAC's. These videos are lazy. They are nothing but dramatic music, buzzwords, and photos edited to look menacing. Why should people take anything seriously when you are trying to make it feel like the climax out of a bad action movie. It's throwing information out so quickly it is undigestable. Then it goes ahead and comes up with a conclusion for us. People want the information to make up their own minds. Everything about this ad leads the viewer to be skeptical.
Thankfully there is a new breed of video. Here are a couple:
Bring it Home - Andrew Gillum for Governor - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBBfAcBkLdE
Need - Julie Oliver for Congress - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqZcpwknUo8
Doors - MJ Hegar for Texas - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi6v4CYNSIQ
The production in these are great, almost cinematic. The camera doesn't just sit on a tripod, which makes them more interesting to the eye. The lighting is thought through. And the edit was done by someone who just churns out templated schlock. It helps give them an air of professionalism and care. But this is not the only thing that makes these effective.
These campaign videos are effective because they let us into the politicians' lives. We learn who they are and why they got into politics. There isn't anything pushy or dramatic. They are just introducing themselves to their constituents and starting a conversation. Their stories can pull at your emotions, but they aren't overtly trying to manipulate them. They are everything campaign ads should be to cut through the cynicism.
It is time to do away with cookie-cutter attack ads. It is time let go of the goofy over the top campaign videos. A politician's story is what is going to make videos effective in future elections. Starting an evolving dialogue that doesn't try to make the decisions for voters will help win them over. My name is Jason Baskin and I am running to rid the world of bad video.