V ideo: Congressional candidate Horace Funkhouser is shown walking down a street. He’s eating a large bag of doughnuts. He stuffs a large, jelly-filled one into his mouth, whole.
Announcer: (As dark, creepy music plays under). “This man, Horace Funkhouser, wants you to send him to Washington, D.C., as your next congressman. But the way he stuffs his face, when would he find time to attend a session?”
Video: Funkhouser tosses empty doughnut bag onto the sidewalk.
Announcer: “This is a man who says he cares about the environment.”
Video: Funkhouser bumps into elderly woman, knocking her to the sidewalk.
Announcer: “He says he cares about seniors.”
Video: Funkhouser climbs into his brand-new Lexus, which is parked illegally in a handicapped spot.
Announcer: “What kind of man is Horace Funkhouser, actually?”
Video: Funkhouser runs over puppy and speeds away.
Announcer: “An awful man, that’s who.”
Video: Incumbent congressman Brad Babblejack runs over, revives the dog and adopts it. Then, he helps the elderly woman up off the sidewalk and onto a park bench, while using his free hand to scoop up the doughnut bag and slip it into his pocket for recycling.
Announcer: “Vote for Funkhouser? Are you kidding? He’s a no-good bum! Re-elect Babblejack for Congress. Come on, think!”
Get ready for political TV and radio ads not too different than the preceding. And with a general election on the autumn horizon, there won’t be much likelihood of subtlety. Dishonest, distorted, twisted political advertising – especially on TV – is as American as crab-apple pie.
The first politician to use TV was Thomas Dewey in his campaign for governor of New York in 1950. While seated in a TV studio, he answered questions from people passing by on the street outside while watching them on a monitor. Not surprisingly, Dewey’s staff had actually selected the so-called passersby the day before, rehearsing their questions. That way they didn’t have to worry that some wise guy would stroll up and say, “Dewey – or don’t we? That’s the real question!”
In the last 30 years or so, election-year ads seem to be above any sort of rules when it comes to tone and innuendo. But after all, political advertising falls under the First Amendment. That’s the one that protects freedom of speech, which includes freedom of hypocrisy, prevarication and false piety.
Just in case you are asked to produce a TV political ad for a friend or colleague this year, just follow these simple steps:
1. Whenever featuring your candidate on camera, bathe him or her in soft, warm light – perhaps sitting in a classroom chatting with grinning kids, or perhaps on the front porch of a retirement facility, hanging out with adoring seniors.
2. But whenever featuring the opponent, make sure the video is shadowy, murky, real grainy and spooky-looking. Video shot from a 7-11 security camera would be most ideal.
3. Sometimes it might be best not to show your candidate on camera at all. Especially if they are a bit goofy-looking or have an odd tic. Instead, just show a montage of really cute, gurgling babies – from all ethnic groups. It doesn’t really matter what the announcer is saying, just show the babies.
4. Always be sure and emphasize that your candidate is, or will be, fighting for the voters. However, don’t show him actually punching anyone.
5. To further make your opponent look creepy, show video of them that has been slowed way down, so they appear to be snockered – or even in a drug-induced condition. Another good idea is to use video that is out of focus and wobbly. This makes their stand on the issues seem out of focus and wobbly, too.
Sadly perhaps, when you get right down to it, there’s a very good reason that so many election-year ads are produced in sometimes sleazy and manipulative style: They work. After all, it’s hard for a candidate to take the high road when the low one goes right through town.