Tuesday, May 21, 2024

AR-Sen: Halter’s Final Ad

My apologies. We got so embroiled in the Land Commissioner email story that I forgot to post Bill Halter and Blanche Lincoln’s final pre-runoff ads.

First, Halter:

I mentioned after Halter’s previous ad that I was impressed with the work of his media people, as the last ad was a masterpiece of cognitive linguistics. Well, it looks like that media team has found their groove, because this ad is almost as awesome as the last one.

I love the “We’ve tried to tell them, but Washington is still out of touch with our lives” opening. People like to be part of a “we” in general, but that goes double when the opposing “them” is an amorphous bad guy like “Washington” or “big business” or “terror.” From there, we get straight into hot-button buzzwords that Arkansans (whether correctly or not) tend to agree are a bad idea: bailouts, “flip flops” (written on a sign), credit card rates, CEO pay, and Wall Street (spoken and on a sign). For good measure, there’s even a re-affirmation that we need to protect social security (sign)/retirement.

Around :20 in, we go from problem — Washington — to solution — Bill Halter. The “signs” theme carries through from problem to solution, too. “All over Arkansas, there are signs that change is possible.” Halter tells us the answer is simple — stop sending the same people (no mention of her name) to Washington. Just like that, the same signs that had problems written on them are flipped over to reveal that they are Bill Halter’s campaign signs. This is clever from a visual standpoint, of course, and it’s a great resolution to the commercial, but there are also two subtle psychological angles at play.

First, there’s the implied message that solving those problems is as easy as flipping over the sign, i.e. voting for Bill Halter. Secondly, and what makes this commercial another success in my opinion, you have the fact that it’s impossible to see the problem and the solution at the same time; either you see the side of the sign that has the problem or you see Bill Halter’s name. The translation, of course, being that, if you see the problem, it’s because you aren’t seeing Bill Halter.

I don’t know if either of those psychological messages were intentional. Based on how well they did with the psych/sociological messaging in the last ad, however, my guess is that they were.

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