Properly done, nothing beats the power of television 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. All they have to do is sit in front of a TV or computer screen.
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Unlike radio or telephone calls, TV allows you to use pictures or 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.
Some basics 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.
As you write, remember this. The purpose of your spot is to entertain and inform. Voters hate spots that don’t say anything and they will resent you for wasting their time. Finally, 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 kinds of spots.
Biographical Spots. If you are a first time candidate unknown to the electorate, you will need to tell voters who you are— we call those bio spots, and usually you do them before you do anything else.
What about your background makes you qualified to do the job? Tell your story and make it relevant. If you are an incumbent, tell people what you’ve done to earn another term.
Values Spots. Incumbent or not, voters need to know something about your core convictions, your fundamental beliefs and what is important to you. Are you grounded by the same fundamental beliefs and convictions of those you seek to represent? Do you care about the same things they do? Sometimes candidates use testimonials to put their values on display and establish a bond with their constituents.
Issue Positioning. There are what we call issue positioning spots, ones in which you stake your ground on an issue important to you, what you are doing to do to fix a problem, the way you’ll vote: Issues like trade, taxes, jobs, foreign policy, crime, race relations or just about any other issue that concerns the voters where you are running.
Negative Ads. 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, their qualifications, credibility or character. If you are going to do them, be prepared to prove and document everything you say and validate what you say with third party sources.
Remember this. 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. Those 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.
Questions? Call me at 845-458-1210. Or email [email protected]
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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.
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