Nearly 230 years ago in 1789, American citizens first exercised their right to vote in the United States’ first presidential election. Over two centuries later in 2016, a record number of 137.5 million Americans voted. In honor of today’s midterm elections, we picked five political ads that PR pros can learn from as you get out today and vote!
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Often referred to by his initials, FDR, Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the most beloved presidents in U.S. history. He’s often cited by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
The ad: Even though the first political advertisement didn’t air until 1952, his team pioneered the art of campaigning by filming his tour across the country for the 1944 election, the former president’s fourth and final campaign. He appealed to the masses with humor in his rallies, had a procession through the streets of New York in an open car in a torrential downpour and gave a rousing speech at the iconic Waldorf-Astoria advocating for post-war peace and disarming of Germany.
Takeaway: Even if you’re not one of the most respected public figures in U.S. history, you can still appeal to your target audience by humanizing your company, exhibiting a passion for your customers’ satisfaction and appeal to their emotions. In an oversaturated digital landscape where ads are everywhere, creating a personal connection between your audience and your content is more important now than ever.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower was a favorite among historians and an American war hero. During World War II, he was a five-star general in the U.S. Army and was responsible for planning and supervising the successful invasion of Europe in 1944-45 from the Western Front. During his presidency, he held nearly 200 press conferences in his two terms. He saw the benefit of maintaining a good relationship with the press, but his primary goal was to have direct communication with the American people.
The ad: Eisenhower’s ad, airing in 1952, was the first of its kind in U.S. history. This campaign focused on Eisenhower’s heroism during World War II on D-Day and smoothly transitions into Eisenhower saying that America wasn’t ready for the impending Korean War unless it upped its armed forces. The ad concludes with, “Vote for peace. Vote for Eisenhower,” which embodied the political climate at the time.
Takeaway: Focusing your PR campaigns on how your company can meet a need it didn’t know it had can be pivotal in generating engagement. This involves educating your audience about your products or services and piggybacking off of current events. Staying informed of trending news makes your campaigns that much more targeted and will boost your engagement by tenfold.
John F. Kennedy
Commonly referred to by his initials JFK, John F. Kennedy was cherished by Americans before and long after his assassination in 1963. At age 43, he was the youngest man to be elected as U.S. president. He served at the height of the Cold War with the majority of his presidency managing relations with the Soviet Union. Domestically, Kennedy oversaw the Peace Corps establishment and civil rights movement.
The ad: This political ad was one of the first of its kind–incorporating a full-blown original song with a chorus, soloists and a combination of photos that were timed perfectly with the music. The ad went through Kennedy’s most valuable traits: reliability, his vast experience despite being so young and at the end portrayed him as a family man with a portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy and his daughter.
Takeaway: JFK’s campaign teaches a powerful lesson of the power of music and repetition, culminating in a holistic setup that ended in giving the audience a choice by the chorus singing, “the choice is up to you.” Using any form of music in your PR campaign gives you a leg up, especially if you get permission to use a popular song. You don’t need to repeat the message as often as JFK’s campaign did, but having a core message to convey to your audience is essential in driving the point home.
Unlike the previous three politicians on this list, Gerald Daugherty, the District 3 representative on the Travis County Commissioners Court in Texas, is not a household name. He was first elected in 2012 and won a new term in the general election in 2016.
The ad: The ad’s protagonist is his wife, Cheralyn, pleading for her husband to be re-elected, as he did not have “any hobbies” outside of politics. The ad features the Travis County representative talking politics to his friends who were at his house for a barbeque. His wife and his friends’ faces are priceless. The thoughtfulness of the video paid off–it went viral, with over three million views on YouTube.
Takeaway: In any campaign, you want to appeal to as many people as possible. Humor is a surefire way to engage your audience. Let’s face it–everybody loves a good laugh. In your campaign, remember not to take yourself too seriously and only sell your product, but rather think about what your audience will find most endearing. Keeping your campaign interesting and fresh will connect your company with your audience, and sales will follow.
Aftab Pureval is a Democratic candidate for Ohio’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House. He’s currently running in the general election today after advancing in the primary in May.
The ad: Pureval also uses humor in his campaign, borrowing an Aflac mascot lookalike to use repetition of “Aftab” as he goes through his policies. He stresses that Hamilton County Clerk of Courts needs modern technology and a full-time housing court. He reiterates his key messages, which are serious policy matters, but makes his ad memorable by using humor.
Takeaway: Pureval’s modern take on his ad shows that he’s keeping up all trends. He goes straight to the point, cutting through the clutter and only mentions what’s necessary for this audience to know. He also combines humor with story format that comes full-circle. Having a straightforward campaign with the dual theme of humor and a simple, straightforward message can create a successful PR campaign.
Happy voting day!
Passionate about all things communications, Jolie found her dream job as a copywriter with Critical Mention, where she’s continuing her passion for writing and editing. With a background working for high-profile clients in the financial, hospitality and technology industries, she’s excited to bring her experience to Critical Mention. When she’s not writing you can find her at music festivals, hiking or snowboarding.