Lesson Plan Sample
Campaign Ads in Elections
Virginia and United States Government – Grade 12
SOL Standard GOVT.6d
The student will demonstrate knowledge of local, state, and national elections by d) analyzing the influence of media coverage, campaign advertising, and public opinion polls.
To explain and give examples of how campaign advertisements are used to persuade and/or mobilize the electorate.
§ Computer with internet access
§ LCD projector
§ Campaign Ad Vocabulary (Word document on CD-ROM)
§ Handout #1: “Types of Ads”
§ Handout #2: “Political Ad Analysis Worksheet”
Dialogue: Yesterday you’ll recall we talked about the way that media coverage and public opinion polls influence elections. Well today we’re going to take a look at the way campaign advertising (in particular, television ads) help to shape voter opinion. Take a look at this campaign ad from 1964.
Show the “Daisy” ad (Johnson 1964) from http://www.livingroomcandidate.org.
The ad we just watched was the famous “Daisy” ad from the Lyndon Johnson presidential campaign of 1964. There’s a lot going on in this ad in the way – number one – that it’s pretty shocking, which appeals to the emotion of the viewer – and that is what we’re going to be talking about today. This emotional appeal is extremely important in any type of advertisement, campaign ads included.
Think about some type of commercial for sneakers, cell phones, video games – whatever, some ad agency is trying to appeal to some certain emotion within you to make you want to buy their product. Here’s an example: Show the “Reebok” ad.
You can see here that the emotion that Reebok is trying to tap into is what? Humor – they are trying to be funny to get their message across – which we see so much of nowadays – and it can be extremely persuasive.
Now compare and contrast that to the Lyndon Johnson ad that we saw – in that ad, it was the fear that the Johnson campaign was trying to tap into to make you want to be afraid to vote for his opponent – in this case Barry Goldwater. So you can tell how this can be extremely effective in influencing a voter’s opinion.
Let’s look at a couple of ads and let’s just get a feel for some of the different types of emotions that the candidates are trying to appeal to. Think of different categories of movies for example – you’ve got dramas, horror movies, comedies, etc.
1. “Country I Love” (Obama 2008) – feel-good, drama, warm and fuzzy
2. “Ike for President” (Eisenhower 1952) – good feelings, warm and fuzzy
3. “Laughter” (Humphrey 1968) – humor
4. “Vietnam” (Nixon 1968) – fear
Political advertisements, whether they be on t.v., the internet, in print, or whatever, are essentially a medium for propaganda. Who can tell me what propaganda means?
Propaganda is defined as ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause. The last part of that definition is really important “to damage an opposing cause”. Not only can you further your own cause, but you can damage your opponent’s. This is what we would call the negative ad and we see it all the time. And do you know why we see it all the time? Right, because it’s effective.
Pass out Handout #1 “Types of Ads”. Now let’s look at some of the ways in which we classify ads. (Have students read definitions from handout).
§ Warm and Fuzzy
We’re going to look at a couple of different ads and I want you to tell me what category or categories from our list that the ads fall into.
1. “Really MD” (Bush 2000) – negative, humor?
2. “Journey” (Clinton 1992) – biography, trust, warm and fuzzy
So now I want to talk a little bit about symbolism. Can anyone define symbolism? A symbol is something (perhaps an object) that represents something else. Symbolism for our purposes is the act of attributing symbolic meanings to objects, events, or relationships in campaign ads to represent something else. The next couple of ads are examples of the way symbolism is used.
1. “Rollercoaster” (Mondale 1984)
2. “Bear” (Reagan 1984)
Pass out Handout #2: “Political Ad Analysis Worksheet”. Let’s look at the handout I just passed out and go through one of these together. Then I’m going to have you pair up with your partner. Using your handout, I want you and your partner to analyze the ads that I show you by filling in the appropriate boxes. When we’re finished, we’ll discuss what we found. I want you to pay particular attention to the things listed on the bottom of the handout – colors, people, etc.
Check for understanding: 1. Pair up with your partner; 2. Watch the ads; 3. Analyze the ads; 4. Fill in the appropriate boxes on your handout with information you gained from watching the ads.
1. “Prouder, Stronger, Better” (Reagan 1984)
Notes: feel-good, warm and fuzzy
Images: people working, couple getting married, shot of the Capitol building (symbol for America), different people raising the flag, beautiful morning in America.
Music: calm and soothing
Narration: narrator has a calm and reassuring voice.
Key message: America is a more prosperous place to live since Reagan took office four years before and people can have confidence in the future.
2. “Revolving Door” (Bush 1988)
Notes: Negative ad
Symbols: the revolving door
Images: prisoners, revolving door, guards, prison fence, prison itself.
Mood: dark, black and white
Superimposed words: “268 escaped”
Narrator: different than the Reagan ad; more serious tone.
Key message: Who would vote for someone who lets murderers escape from jail?
3. “Convention” (Nixon 1968)
Notes: fear ad
Images: Humphrey himself (in a negative way) mixed with images of Vietnam, race riots, and poverty. This is an attempt to connect Hubert Humphrey with the domestic and international turmoil at the time;
Notice the transition from the convention to the images of Vietnam, etc.,
sometimes the screen shakes.
Music: weaves in and out from this marching band-style music and this eerie, harsh, very dissonant noise.
What about the narration?: None.
Key message: Hubert Humphrey is not the best choice to lead the country in these troubling times.
4. If time allows, do one more – “Second” (Clinton 1992)
Notes: negative-positive ad
Uses a clip of George Bush himself making a promise that he later could not keep – this portrays Bush in a negative light;
Cites facts and figures from news articles that also portray Bush negatively;
Notice how the music changes midway and turns a negative ad into a positive one; it then cites facts and figures of Clinton’s successes;
The theme would be the quote at the end “You don’t have to read his lips, read his record.”
Why do you think candidates advertise on television? (To try to persuade voters and shape public opinion.)
Which one of the ads we saw was the most memorable? Why?
Which type of campaign advertisement do you think is the most effective in convincing voters to vote for (or against) a candidate?
Analyze one campaign ad from the 2008 election by visiting the website - http://www.livingroomcandidate.com.
Answer the following:
1. How is the candidate trying to persuade the viewer in the ad?
2. What are some of the methods, techniques, and elements the candidate uses to persuade?
3. Use examples of symbolism, images, sounds, themes, etc., and classify the ad into one or more of the categories we discussed in class.