If you are anything like me, at this point in the presidential election season you are fed up with all the campaign commercials that are constantly popping up on your television screen. Perhaps you are even fed up to the point that you have picked up your remote to mute the television instead of listening to the attacks from one candidate to the other (guilty!). “He can’t be trusted” to “She is what is wrong with America” – in fact, the ads continuously highlight what is wrong with presidential campaigning. Even the positive campaign ads have become irritating. Are these ads getting through to anyone? Do they actually work?
Whether you are intrigued or irritated by campaign commercials, there is one commercial in particular that motivated me to discuss the political campaign ads this season. Taking us back to October, prior to CNBC’s GOP Debate, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) released a campaign ad to create a light-hearted atmosphere heading into a very serious debate night in Colorado. In the commercial, Rubio is seen (right) at his computer talking to someone on the phone asking numerous questions including: “What’s the latest on Cruz?” and “What about Bush?” As a viewer, you assume he is talking about the opposing presidential candidates. However, a few seconds pass and he then states the first names of the individuals he was referencing. Turns out, Rubio was talking about NFL players and his Fantasy Football picks the entire time (Victor Cruz, Reggie Bush, and Carson Palmer).
Senator Rubio’s love for fantasy football has been known for quite some time. As a former football player, he hosted a viewing party on January 3, where he can be seen (left) posing with a New England Patriots arm cut out. While some see this concentration on sports as a refreshing break from politics, others see it as an unprofessional distraction. Senator Rubio was simply trying to inject a bit of humor into politics. But, as we know, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, right? And that is exactly what happened.
It is no secret that Senator Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have spent the majority of the election season bantering back and forth. The two never appear to see things eye to eye while the rest of the nation sits back and takes note. Rubio and Cruz are constantly calling each other liars when certain topics are brought up, but more often than not, it’s just the game of stretching the truth and twisting words that results.
This back-and-fourth relationship between these top contenders for the GOP nomination has now landed a spot on the small screen. Three months after Senator Rubio aired his fantasy football commercial, Senator Cruz was there with a backhanded swing; well, at least his biggest supporters were. Keep the Promise, an organization devoted to supporting Ted Cruz, invested $1 million in a PAC to combat Marco Rubio. Their commercial, entitled “Leadership,” starts off flashing images of serious situations facing our nation complemented by text running across the screen to explain the images. The commercial ends begging the question: “What would Marco Rubio’s leadership look like?” then plays a clip borrowed from Rubio’s own Fantasy Football commercial: “I know I have a debate, but I’ve got to get this fantasy football thing right.” As it turns out, Senator Rubio set himself up to be portrayed as an unprepared, distracted candidate who appears to be ignoring the significant issues of our country. That is the cost he paid when he tried to appeal to the nation in a more relaxed and entertaining way.
But it would not be the classic Rubio-Cruz relationship if the opposing side did not fight back. It was not too long before Rubio’s senior campaign adviser, Joe Pounder, took to Twitter mocking Senator Cruz’s own video of him “auditioning” for the Simpsons.
While this banter can be seen as entertaining, the takeaway lesson is the power and influence of advertising. While the commercials that scream across our televisions all day and night may be annoying – to the point of muting – those are the messages that infiltrate our daily media diet. They reach a wide audience, no matter how negative or annoying, and they create a salient state in the minds of voters…a winning formula for campaigns.
Written by: Alexa Chiarelli, Online Content Management.