Most Political Campaigns waste money on their TV and video ads. In this video, examples of award winning political spots, and tips on making yours great.

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Properly done, nothing beats the power of television or video Political Campaign ads to persuade, move, inflame, motivate, cajole, anger or convince a voter to support you on election day. A voter need not make an effort to hear and see your TV spot or video. All they have to do is sit in front of a TV or computer screen.

Unlike radio or telephone calls, television allows you to use pictures and footage to help carry the message. Unlike mail, voters don’t have to read any words. Unlike a website, voters don’t have to click a URL to find you, or make any effort to learn something about you.

Those who were here on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, or alive when planes hit the world trade center will never forget what they saw or where they were. That says all that needs to be said about the power of pictures and video footage to trigger human emotion.

Three basic tips about about TV commercials:

#1. Before you produce one, research the rules. What disclaimer is required? Must you use certain words to comply with the law? Where must the disclaimer appear in the spot and how large must the font be? Does the law require that your picture be in the spot? Are you required to talk in the commercial? If you don’t comply with the rules, the TV stations will not air your spot.

#2. Decide what you want to say and write your script. Do that first. Repeat. Write the script first. Then decide what pictures or footage or symbols you are going to use to help carry your words. A good script will survive bad footage. The best footage in the world will not save a bad script.

#3. If you are doing a spot to air on YouTube, you will not be under the same time constraint, but you still have to comply with disclaimer requirements.

As you write your commercial script, remember this:

The purpose of your spot is to inform and entertain. Voters hate spots that don’t say anything and candidates who waste their time. As you decide what visuals and sounds to use in your TV spot, remember that what is most important is not what they mean to you, it is what that footage, those pictures, sounds and symbols trigger inside the head of the viewer. If your spots are irrelevant to the viewer, you will be irrelevant to the voters.

Broadly speaking, there are five different types of political television spots:  Biographical. Values. Issues. Negative ads (or contrast spots), Response ads. Some examples of each.

Biographical- If you are a first time candidate unknown to the electorate, you will need to tell voters who you are— and usually candidates do bio spots before they do anything else. These spots tell voters that you have done something significant in your life, that you have your feet on the ground, and that you have some qualifications to do the job.

Clayton William’s Biography- In his spot you learned that Williams was a Texas native, army veteran, father, husband, college graduate, business owner, successful entrepreneur, job creator, deeply familiar with the growth industries in Texas— a great resume for someone running for Governor.

When writing the script for your bio spot, ask yourself: What about your background makes you qualified to do the job? What about your background qualifies you to make decisions about how people live, make a living, and raise their families. If you are an incumbent, tell people what you’ve accomplished or done to earn another term.

Values- Voters need to know something about your core convictions, your fundamental beliefs and what is important to you. Your job is to let them know that your values and moral convictions are in sync with theirs.

Jim Jeffords’ Farmer Values- Vermont is a rural state with a lot of dairy farmers. In this spot you learned what Jeffords had done to help them, the farmland protection program, the dairy promotion program, and how that had helped farmers stay in business. There is a strong visual message in the footage associating Jeffords with a hard working farm family. Note the slogan. Jeffords was popular and had served as Attorney General and as a Congressman. He was opposed by a Vermont newcomer who had never held public office…thus the slogan. “It’s a job you have to earn.”

When you write a spot about your core convictions, look for things you have in common with the people you represent—common concerns, common interests, common moral principles or core beliefs. Letting them know that you do is your way of letting them know they can trust your judgment to make decisions on their behalf.

Issues- An issue positioning spot is one where you stake your ground on an issue important to you, important to the electorate, and note what you are going to do to fix a problem. This can cover a broad range of issues…trade, taxes, jobs, foreign policy, crime, race relations or just about any other topic that is of concern to the voters …

Clayton Williams’ Issue Position- What voters learned in the spot is that Williams was deeply committed to solving a drug abuse problem in Texas, that he had a three point program to do that, including early education, mild penalties for teenage drug abuse, and tough love for persistent drug abusers.

The spot also put the candidate’s personality on display, his grit, determination and sassy personality. This commercial was judged the best political TV spot in the United States the year it ran.

When deciding what kind of issue spots you should do, the first question to ask is this — is it something you feel passionately about? Is it something important to the coalition of people who are your likely voters? Can you give voters some specifics on what you’ll do to fix the problem? Is it an issue in which you and your opponent disagree? One in which voters agree with you and disagree with your opponent?

Negative Ads (Contrast Spots)- Negative ads are perfectly appropriate if you are fair, legitimate, relevant and accurate. And I mean dead on accurate. They are most effective when you supply information to voters that they don’t know at the outset of a campaign… Information that undermines your opponent’s credentials, qualifications, credibility or character. If you are going to do them, be prepared to prove, document, and validate everything you say. If it takes more than one spot to say what you need to say, there is no rule that says you can’t turn your broadside into a series of spots.

Hinchey’s Negative Ad- Three commercials were run in sequence over a three week period, and they told a story of a candidate who broke the rules to raise campaign cash, used taxpayers money to reward those who made illegal campaign contributions, and broke his promise to return the illegal cash after he was caught.

Note the use of questions posed at the end of the first two spots, which invite viewers to come to their own conclusions about the character of the candidate. And the use of newspaper clips to document the attack.

When you write a negative spot, look for way to prove what you are saying—newspaper clips, quotes, or footage. And Respect the voter. Just give them the facts. Voters know how to think and they don’t need you to do their thinking for them. If you telegraph to the viewer that they are suppose to hate your opponent without first telling them why, they’ll tune you out.

Response Ads- These are the ads you do when you’ve been attacked. The secret of an effective response ad, answer the charge, then kick back in a way that puts your opponent on the defensive or shames them for what they have done. If you can use a little humor, all the better.

Jeffords Response Ad- This spot capitalized on the good will that voters had toward Jim Jeffords, and used a working dairy farmer to rebut the charge that Jeffords was dishonest. It also ridiculed the charge leveled by the person who made it, painting him as an untrustworthy person willing to say anything to win votes.

Television and video are the most powerful tools in your advertising arsenal. Lots of candidates waste money on television spots. Usually the mistake is in the way they are written. And usually the problem is candidates try to make too many points in one spot, or communicate so much information that the viewer remembers nothing.

Before you write your spot, decide what idea, message or thought you want to convey. Make one point well, and your spot will serve you well.


running for office

Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

How to win an election:

Running for office and knowing how to win an election is a challenge, especially for first time political candidates just learning how to run for office. Discerning the fine points of how to campaign, raise political contributions, and execute a political campaign strategy often requires the help of someone who has served as a political strategist or who has experience as a political consultant.

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