The Czar will posit, straight up, that the more educated you are, the less you like political ads.
The Czar is willing to bet you loathe them but that’s a safe bet. In fact, the Czar is willing to assume you’ve never been swayed to vote for a candidate because of their television or radio ad. You may well have been repulsed by the content of an ad, but that isn’t too likely to sway you.
And sway you how, exactly? That’s the crux of the issue: for whom are these ads even intended?
Look, if you’re a straight-voting Republican, you’re not going to suddenly jump for a Democrat except in a strange circumstance you will fully understand and justify.
And unless that candidate is Ronald Reagan, a straight-voting Democrat is not going to switch to a Republican vote.
And God knows the libertarians are not going to vote at all, because they’re too busy sending messages to both parties that no one can hear, not even dogs.
So once again, all the stupid stuff in politics revolves around the Independent voter. You already know the Czar thinks “independent voters” are a myth. These people know for whom they will vote—they just don’t want to admit it to pollsters.
A small chunk of them may be undecided. “I voted for a Republican last election, but this time I might go for that Democrat.” The Czar once met a physical therapist who voted for Obama because she thought he looked like Denzell Washington, whom she thought was dreamy. That isn’t independence: that’s stupidity.
So political ads are really written for the sliver of voters who are too dopey to get into the issues and probably don’t understand the fundamental differences between parties.
And that’s the big thing: political ads are doomed to inanity because you have about 15 seconds to convince someone who’s a moron.
You don’t do this with profound philosophical difference: “Democrats are allegedly in favor of a $10 an hour minimum wage; Republicans want everyone to make much more than that.” You can’t summarize the historical and sociological differences between Democrats and Republicans in 15 seconds. Hell, it would take you 30 minutes just to run through the Ku Klux Klan.
So if you already don’t understand the differences between, say, a Greg Abbott and a Wendy Davis, 15-minutes won’t help you, let alone 15 seconds. Therefore, the advertiser is forced to reduce things down to your level: My Guy Good, Their Guy Bad.
Political advertisements fall into two categories: the positive ad and the negative ad.
A truly positive ad is pretty rare and treasured. Remember Ronald Reagan’s ”Morning in America” ad? What a joy: it never acknowledged Democrats or strawmen or bad guys. Just why it was a good thing to vote for Reagan. Obama’s Hope and Change was a similar idea, and obviously effective: it never said a word for or against Republicans.
The typical positive ad, though, lacks this simplicity. It’s a sort-of negative ad.
Minor chord, sustained celli and basses. Doug Flemm is a tool for the Democrats. He supports eating children and animals. He once poked a bird in the eye. Everyone knows he has no crotch. Major chord, sustained woodwinds and trombones. Republican Bob Thwaites is a friend to all, including cuddly creatures. He once picked up his yard waste even when it blew onto your lawn. He routinely returns rental cars will full gas tanks.
The giveaway is the change in the music smack in the middle of the ad. Literally: seven and a half seconds into the spot, you hear the music change just as they talk about Their Guy. This is pure Us versus Them reductionism, and it’s ugly as hell.
But not as stupid as the negative ad.
Republican Bob Thwaites once laughed at a dick joke. He loathes and detests you. He’s raised taxes several hundred percent while paying no taxes himself. He thinks women belong in prison, making fighting movies, and minorities need to live elsewhere. God, how I hate him. I just can’t stand Bob Thwaites. Say NO to Bob Thwaites. Say NO to prison fight movies.
You might get the vox populi going in either direction: a worried homeowner talking about how your candidate saved him from a French kiss (positive), or a disgruntled factory worker talking about how the other guy came into his factory and stuffed a wooden shoe into the gears, just to get the whole shift fired (negative).
Again, these are written on the same premise: My Guy Good, Their Guy Bad. Because when you’re too dumb to realize you pay too much in taxes, you need something simple.
Educate the voters, of course, and not only do political ads get less dumb…they go away.