Today, both President Obama and Mitt Romney have created a series of biographical and attack ads, and they will continue to produce new ads in the coming weeks leading up to the election. Events such as presidential debates will help both candidates to shape new ads, and it will be up to the voters to decide if the ads will influence their decision in the election.
Campaign ads on television have been a part of presidential elections since 1952, and today ads have spread from the television to the Internet. While presidential candidates currently focus many of their ads in battleground states, they also sponsor national ads that run in all markets. Historically, ads have been memorable for a variety of reasons, and they have often played a role in choosing the winner of the presidential election. There are two main types of ads – biographical ads that stress the positive aspects of a candidate, and attack ads that point out the failings of the candidate’s opponent.
1. For homework the night before, the students should read the following article about effective presidential campaign commercials:
Ten of the Most Effective Presidential Campaign Commercials Ever Made
2. They should watch all ten commercials for homework as well, and they should come to class with the two ads that they find most compelling – one biographical/positive ad and one attack/negative ad.
3. In class, students should revisit the campaign commercial page: Ten of the Most Effective Presidential Campaign Commercials Ever Made and watch the two ads that they selected again. As they watch the commercial, they should fill out the Historical Presidential Advertisement Worksheet.
4. As a class, students should come together and discuss the ads that they selected. Students who chose the same ads can compare their reactions to the commercials, as well as whether they would have been persuaded to vote for the candidate. Students should also discuss the different impressions they gathered from positive vs. negative ads, as well as which method they found most convincing. Also, they can talk about whether they think Obama and Romney should focus on positive or negative ads.
5. After they have completed the worksheet, they should go to the PBS NewsHour website that will allow them to create their own campaign ads:
PBS NewsHour AdLibs: Make Your Own Campaign Ad
6. Once students have logged into the site, they should create two ads – one biographical ad and one attack ad. They should use their knowledge of historical ads to select visual images and messages that would be compelling, and they should be prepared to explain how their own ad was influenced by their favorite historical campaign commercials.
1. Students can share the ads that they created with their classmates, and the class can discuss which ads are the most persuasive.
2. Students can also look for current campaign ads by both Obama and Romney, and discuss the effectiveness of the different commercials.
a. They can visit the candidates’ websites
b. They can go to YouTube to look for 2012 campaign ads.
c. They can also google “Obama campaign commercials” and “Romney campaign commercials” to find advertisements.
3. Students may also look for ads that are running in battleground states in order to see individual messages that are targeting specific states. They can see how the ads connect to the issues concerning voters in these states.