Monday, October 24, 2016

Political messaging: Jason Kander gets it right

The ad above for Jason Kander, the Democratic candidate for US Senator from Missouri, is one of the strongest election ads I’ve ever seen. It takes a charge made by an opponent, and turns it around. Blindfolded. But this is only one of the effective ads from the Kander campaign.

The ad, “Background Checks”, is built on the fact that military personnel are taught to assemble their weapons quickly—even blindfolded—to ensure their readiness. It creates a striking visual, and combines it with a common-sense gun message—and a strong dig at his opponent at the end. It works very well.

Jason Kander is a former Army Captain who volunteered for the army after 9/11, eventually serving in Afghanistan. After returning home, he eventually ran for the state legislature, then in 2012 he was elected Secretary of State.

Not surprisingly, he is a strong advocate for veterans, something the Republican Party has failed to do for many years now. But he’s also been an advocate for ethics reform and leaner government. His political career has been right in the mainstream of Missouri politics and, truth be known, many voters of all stripes around the country.

Kander frequently uses the tagline, “we won’t change Washington, until we change the people we send there”. This is a brilliant tagline for this year. Kander started using it in ads a month ago when he increased his messages pointing out that the Republican incumbent’s wife is a lobbyist, and so are his three children. Kander had been talking about that for months, but this year it’s a particularly relevant message that resonates with voters.

Here’s the ad, “Family Business”, from late September:

Kander’s most recent ad, and the next ad in this series, is “20 Years”:

This ad is similar to other ads on this issue, but there’s one particularly effective technique in this ad: The businesswoman frowns and shakes her head as the ad plays an audio clip of the Republican incumbent defending his family’s lobbying business. The visual presentation of the audio in the ad also works very well.

Finally, an ad from a couple weeks ago, about a week before the “20 Years” ad above. This particular ad, “Came Home”, is about why Jason Kander is running for Senate, and less about what’s wrong with the Republican incumbent. It also uses his tagline, reinforcing his message. As such ads go, it’s good, though not as focused on giving reasons to vote for him as to make him a likable choice for change.

By themselves, video ads, no matter how good or well created they are, don’t win elections. However, they have become one of the most important parts of campaigning because they deliver messages in short, easy-to-digest morsels. Whether they resonate with votes depends on a lot of things, including on how well made they are.

Well-made ads for Democrats sometimes put off conservatives, however, how many of them would've voted for the Democrat? Ads like Kander’s are designed to reach the majority of voters who are persuadable, not just the partisans. That’s why Kander’s ads work so well: They present clear points of difference between him and the Republican incumbent.

If I lived in Missouri, I’d vote for Jason Kander. That’s not because of his ads, but they certainly did catch my attention, and that’s the real point of all political ads.

The US Senate race in Missouri is currently a toss-up, with a slight lean to Jason Kander. If enough Missourians turn out to vote for Kander, regardless of what presidential candidate they vote for, we could see change. And that would be good for the entire United States.


Jason Kander for US Senate – the link may go to Unite Blue first, but you can click through to get the actual site.

Missourians for Kander – The YouTube Channel for the Kander campaign, where these ads all his other videos can be found.

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