Another election cycle is approaching and already my frustration level is at an all time high. Could political advertising be more vacuous and insulting? Really, Mr. Candidate, how stupid do you think the electorate is? Well, according to the ads you are running on television I would guess your opinion is rather low. Here, stop reading the latest polling results and I will try to help you out. This is the best your very expensive media consultants have to offer…… Hi, my name is Your Dreams Come True and I’m for everything GOOD and oppose everything BAD. My opponent is FOR everything bad and AGAINST everything good. Cut to voice over, "This message was approved by Your Dreams Come True."
Seriously, do you think this kind of horse shit plays at all in the real world? It wouldn’t get you elected fifth grade homeroom president. Now, I’m not suggesting any voter should cast their ballot solely based on viewing television advertisements, a decision which would be foolish and just plain idiotic. What I am suggesting is an advertising strategy which engages the viewer and builds enough excitement about a candidate or issue to pull the voter out of their living room and get them actively involved in the campaign. Is this too much to ask?
Bill Hillsman thinks the answer is "no". Bill has been the creative force behind some of the most innovative political advertisement in the last 16 years. He developed genre busting spots for Paul Wellstone, Jesse Ventura and Ralph Nader. Probably his most talked about spot was his advertisement depicting Jesse Ventura as an action figure bent on fighting special interests.
Here is a link to an interview Bill Hillsman gave in 2004 for Mother Jones which is worth reading and provides clips of his best know ads. A more recent article concerning his work for Ned Lamont and Kinky Friedman can be found here in this 2006 article for The Christian Science Monitor. More ads can be found here at the North Woods Advertising Agency.
Here is track eight for the playlist: Why Theory? by Gang of Four
Update: I just finished reading Run the Other Way and want to share my favorite passage.
Political spinmeisters and the two big political parties benefit when independent-minded voters who are not captive to any party choose to stay home. Consultants and pollsters know the buttons to push to motivate party regulars-especially the extremists and one-issue voters-and they always show up. Political parties also have greater influence in low-turnout elections, because their get-out-the-vote efforts are aimed at the party faithful-again, people who are sure to show up-and at voters who are leaning their way. In short, when the undecided choose not to decide and stay home, it puts political parties, political consultants, and pollsters in control of the election. Independent-minded voters are the voters who frighten these professionals and who act as the safety valve for the system. When independents show up to vote, they become the great unknown. They are dangerous. They have no fealty to the two major political parties or to Election Industry, Inc.