Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Creating a Great Political Ad

Summary: A consultant for Joe Sestak opens up about the story behind a great attack ad.

At HSG Campaigns, we like to say that campaigning is both an art and a science.

On one hand, there is a very simple, data-driven process which - if applied correctly - can optimize the number of votes a candidate receives in an election. On the other hand, there is an integral creative process that requires a lot of hard work and sheer political skill.

In the recent Democratic Primary in Pennsylvania between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak, one political ad reflected both components of successful campaigning.

Recently, Fox 29 News in Philadelphia interviewed Sestak consultant J.J. Balaban of the Campaign Group - a friend of HSG Campaigns - about the ad.

As you can see, Balaban applied both processes very well.

It’s an Art…
Fitting that much great footage into 30 seconds is no easy task. The Campaign Group carefully edited in what they felt was the best possible scenes that would be embarrassing to Specter’s new Democratic affiliation.

They successfully created a narrative of Specter that made him both a Republican and a politician who would do anything to get re-elected.

Deciding to end it with an image of Sarah Palin rather than George W. Bush was a particularly good idea. Palin is much more relevant to the political scene today and Bush’s image had already been used throughout the spot.

It’s a Science…
Often times the success of a campaign will come down to how well voters were targeted. In a Democratic Primary, the bloc to target is pretty simple: Democrats. To this extent, the Campaign Group knew they needed to undermine Specter as an acceptable candidate for a Democratic nomination - and as we pointed out with the narrative they constructed - they successfully did just that.

Of course, the science side of it was more complex than that. They no doubt relied on a lot of data to tell them what media markets to play the ad in and how often to play it there. Unfortunately (and for good reason) a consultant isn’t going to be as open about those data as he or she would be about the creative process.

Congratulations to the Campaign Group and the Sestak Campaign!