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The Voiceover Wolf At Your Door…


On November 3rd, just prior to the election, NPR ran a story on two of the biggest names in commercial voiceovers: Dennis Steele and Scott Sanders.  The piece is absolutely brilliant — they start with replays of some negative and positive ads from this political season.  But then, it gets really fun.

Let's just say that I'll never be able to think about John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt the same way again.

It's one thing to hear these ads, over and over again until you can recite them in your sleep, on your television or your radio.  It's quite another to think about the artistic considerations that go into their production in terms of voicing choices and inflection and background music and everything else there is built into the background of the ad or used right out front (like…um…naked bimbo white chicks) to manipulate your perceptions of the candidates.

There have been all sorts of academic studies done on political ads, most of which come to no particular conclusion other than a well-produced ad with a good hook can pull people into your point of view.  Negative ads can be effective, but there has to be some predisposition to suspect the targeted politician in the first place.  (Although, to be fair, he or she IS a politician, so it's not like we're talking about raising questions about Mother Teresa or anything.  One of the joys of being a lawyer is that politicians consistently rank below us in trustworthiness rankings.  Woo hoo!  Ahem…)

This past election cycle, as of the end of October, for every $1 of positive advertising, there were $10 of negative ad dollars spent on the air.  We did quite a bit of discussion about ads, good and bad, through the last election cycle, but the NPR story on voiceovers truly brings home some very important aspects of the craft of political advertising.

So before the next election cycle starts heating up again, it is worth a pause to think about what worked — and what did not work.  Because people should learn from their mistakes, instead of continuously pumping money down a consultant rat hole from which there is little to no return — that is just…stupid.  What were your favorite political ads this season?  Do you have a YouTube link or some other link to the ad?  Which ones did you hate…and why?

And while we are at it, those robocalls have GOT to go. 

Let's talk a little bit about advertising strategies this morning.  And do listen to the NPR story.  You'll thank me, truly, because it is absolutely brilliant.  And completely freaking hilarious.

(Illustration via Sur La Lune fairy tales.) 

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com