Campaign Commercials: The Nightmare Will Soon Be Over

Tuesday, November 6, 2012, will be the 57th quadrennial presidential election in which we the people will vote, and then on December 17, 2012, the presidential electors (The Electoral College) will officially elect the president and vice president of the United States. The nightmare—the end of what seems like four years of campaigning, and almost as much time airing political commercials—will be over.

Here in the New York bubble, we’ve been spared the barrage of TV and, surprisingly, print ads. Even the usual campaign buttons for either candidate are like hens’ teeth. But that doesn’t mean they’re not out there in abundance. The New York Times reported that  “late last week, when the count passed 73,000, Las Vegas set the record as the place with the most televised campaign advertisements in a single year.” Leading to the rather subjective question: with such volume, how many are done well?  And what is “well”? Also, what role, if any, does print have in the modern (four-year) presidential race?

So I asked a master of the genre, who over the past 50 years has made his share of ads to help Bobby Kennedy, Hugh Scott, Warren Magnuson, and Lee Alexander at the ballot box. Here’s what George Lois has to say:

“All print ads have gone down the road of editorial magazine design, whose goal these days is to resemble the traditional internet page, every square inch packed with information. There is a total lack of talent and passion for dramatic, graphically powerful, two-dimensional design working in synergy with powerful, big idea copy.”

When Lois did political advertising, “I always went all out to champion the candidate (who I always believed in). I can’t think of one negative commercial that I ever ran—every one was an all-out buildup for the candidate’s qualities and imagery.”

Have any ads added to the conversation? Lois notes, “The one national [Obama] ad that brightened my day and could give anyone pause to be emotionally moved was the Morgan Freeman voiceover spot, titled CHALLENGES, with the tag line ‘But the last thing we should do is turn back now,’ and the John Glenn spot, produced for Ohio.” He couldn’t comment on the Romney spots. Having spent time watching many of them, I could find only one that made an impression, the pro-GOP super PAC American Crossroads ad attacking President Obama as a “celebrity president.”

For a sampling of this campaign’s Obama and Romney TV spots, go here and here.

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For more George Lois, check out his webcast Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent).

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