Blog Post: I’ve been involved in creating thousands of political ads. Here are my tips for an effective content creation strategy.

September 19, 2022 | Blog Post

Advertising, whether on television, radio, direct mail, or online, is one of the most effective ways to reach a consumer. After reviewing thousands of political ads over the years, I’ve learned what makes a good, effective, and legal ad. These lessons apply beyond the political space. Regardless of your goal, it can be tough to stand out in a saturated market. Whether you’re trying to get someone to vote, buy your product, or take action, here’s what I suggest. 

You need to view each person watching the ad as a potential consumer. The opening of an ad is something that must be right in order to catch the viewer’s eye. In the political space, this is accomplished through an effective one-liner from the candidate, a line that reflects unfavorably on the opponent, or an eye- and ear-catching news report. Music in the background is important, but it can’t be so loud that it overwhelms the ad.

Knowing your audience is key to effectively capturing them. Create ads the target audience will like. If you’re from Illinois, you might prefer a different ad than someone in Wyoming. This can be accomplished through an ad with a singular, defining message with which you want the viewer to walk away. Overcomplicating is your enemy – keep it simple.

Use the resources around you. For example, if you’re a trade association interested in knowing what a candidate has said, Bullpen Strategy Group can use our monitoring and research teams to find elements to use that will improve your ad. This can be a clip from an old local news report that backs up and strengthens the message, or a news article that verifies the claims made in the ad. Good research makes good ads.

Above all, the ad must be legally compliant adhering to federal and state requirements. It’s easy to get so carried away in the messaging and development of an ad that some things fall through the cracks. It’s required that ads sponsored by groups or politicians have an onscreen 4-second disclaimer at the end, such as “Paid for by…” Each state has different laws with disclaimers, so be sure that you’re familiar with the state’s specific requirements. Federal races, such as U.S. Senate campaigns, have their own sets of rules that must be followed. If you’re using stock footage in an ad, make sure it’s all fully licensed, including music. Avoid easy pitfalls like a shot of a car with a Virginia Tech bumper sticker in an ad for a congressional seat that includes the University of Virginia.

There’s so much more to advertising, but if you stick to the general advice provided above, you’ll be well on your way to making an effective ad.

Jay Boyd is a Senior Director at Bullpen Strategy Group. He previously spent his career in political consulting & media, as well as campaigns.