9th Honors Literature
Analyzing Media: Political Ads
Vote for me!
Like advertisers, politicians rely on TV advertising to essentially "sell" themselves—their beliefs, image, political agenda,
and values—to voters during election time. Politicians know that frequently seen TV ads can have a powerful and
persuasive influence on voters. As a result, many politicians devote large parts of their budgets to producing ads and
airing them when their target audience is likely to be watching.
What does it mean?
During an election year, you probably see a variety of political ads on TV. But do you ever stop to think about the
messages that are being conveyed? As you may already know, political ads can convey both positive and negative
feelings. The purpose of a positive political ad is to create support for the featured candidate by emphasizing the
candidate's good qualities and accomplishments. Positive ads are intended to leave viewers feeling good about the
Instead of focusing on the favorable aspects of the featured candidate, negative ads use disturbing statistics, visuals, and
sounds to make the candidate's opponent seem out-of-date or inadequate. Often, very little information is given about the
featured candidate. The main purpose of a negative ad is to incite your fears about what could happen if the opponent is
Click on the link below to access an activity on the PBS Web site. This activity will allow you to apply what you've just
learned about political ads. You will see footage that shows a fictional politician shaking hands with his supporters. By
manipulating the visuals and changing the sounds, you can transform the footage into an effective positive or negative
political ad. Once you've completed the exercise, return to the next step in this activity.
http://www.pbs.org/ 30secondcandidate/ tricks_of_the_trade/
Now that you are an expert in creating political ads, it's your turn to judge a political ad created by a real presidential
candidate from the current republican primary race. The links below will take you to political ads about three different
candidates—Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. After you view all videos, pick one political ad to
analyze. As you write your analysis, refer to the Questions to Consider on the back of this sheet. When you are finished,
share your expert political analysis with your classmates.
Questions to Consider
1. Which candidate is this political ad promoting? Can you tell from the ad who the candidate's opponent is?
2. During which election year did this political ad air? What was going on in the country during that time? Does the
ad address any important issues of the time?
3. Is this a positive or negative political ad? How can you tell?
4. What visuals are shown in the ad? Describe the choice of camera shots, framing, and lighting.
5. What sounds are employed? Describe the narration, music, and sound effects.
6. What persuasive techniques are used? Examples of persuasive techniques include emotional appeal, product
comparison, slogan, and security.
7. In your opinion, is this political ad effective? Why or why not?
Camera Shots A camera shot is a continuous view taken by a camera, from the time it starts recording to the time it
stops. To convey positive feelings, a political ad might use shots that show the candidate shaking hands with supporters,
or shots that show the American flag.
Emotional Appeal A persuasive technique used in advertising. A political ad that uses this technique is intended to
make viewers feel certain emotions, such as happiness, nostalgia, or excitement. If viewers feel good about the ad, they
may transfer that feeling to the candidate.
Framing The positioning of objects and people within a television frame to convey certain meanings or to achieve
effects. For example, a candidate might be framed close up and from a low angle to make him or her seem more
Lighting Different styles of lighting may be used in political ads to achieve particular effects. For example, strobing
lights and the use of black and white can help make a candidate's opponent seem threatening or unpleasant.
Music Music is used to help create a mood for a political ad. For example, a positive ad might feature patriotic music,
while a negative ad might use music that creates an ominous or unpleasant mood.
Persuasive Techniques The techniques used in advertisements to convince consumers or voters to buy a product or
elect a candidate.
Product Comparison A persuasive technique used in advertising. The political ad features a comparison between the
featured candidate and his or her opponent. It depicts the opponent as inferior. The intended effect is to make viewers
question the values or motives of the opponent.
Security A persuasive technique used in advertising. The ad draws on voters' fears by telling them that their jobs,
families, or their lives will be in jeopardy—unless they vote for the featured candidate.
Slogan A memorable phrase used in a political campaign, or a series of political ads. Viewers remember the slogan and
associate its message with the candidate.
Sound Effects The sound effects employed in political ads can also help to create a mood. For example, sound effects,
such as a loud "boom" or a repeated pounding, might be featured in a negative ad to help create a threatening mood.
Target Audience The group of people advertisers and politicians aim their pitch at. The members of a target audience
often share certain characteristics, such as age, gender, ethnicity, values, or lifestyle.