Television Advertisement Analysis

Presidential Television Advertisement Analysis

Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls continue to try and reach the attention of the American masses as a final television ad was released by eight candidates. On December 3, 2013, just two days before the nomination vote, a last round of ads absorbed nearly all commercial space – leaving little room for Flo’s insurance propositions or Jack’s newest hamburger creation.

This advertisement is among the final tweets, Facebook updates, telephone calls, and town hall speeches candidates are doing to remind us what we already know: Rick Santorum is religious, Sarah Palin wants to dismantle ‘crony capitalism’, Paul Ryan hates big government, Elizabeth Warren wants to move forward, Martin O’Malley loves all family, Deval Patrick wants his audience to read, and Hillary Clinton is specific—about everything, and Rand Paul is lost.

But in all seriousness, prospective nominees spend millions on television ads, and each year the spending continues to increase. So what are these advertisements saying? What are they addressing? And why do they all manage to look the same if you just press mute? An analysis of Hillary Clinton and Rick Santorum campaign ads will provide some understanding of the methodology behind presidential aspirant ad campaigns.

Advertisement Context

 It is not surprising that these final ads focus on the candidate’s strong suits while targeting their main voting pool.

As seen by the democratic candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton focuses her entire advertisement on retirement funds. The primary issue she addresses is the number of retired poor or the near poor. The average amount of social security paid to a retired worker on a monthly basis is well below what is considered the poverty line in the United States. Over a series of images intended to capture the struggles of poor retirees, she asks, “are we going to sit back and allow the American people to slip into poverty, simply because our government in unprepared to assist them?” Clinton then delivers the punchline of the ad, “a vote for Hillary Clinton, is a vote for the American Retirement Accounts.” She boldly promises government assistance to help the retired population that is in an economic bind.

There is an increasing fear over a potential social security deficit; it is an issue that is growing among the already retired, near retired, and the youth. Social Security diminishes as a reliable source of income after retirement, it becomes a problem not only for people nearing or in retirement, but for the entire nation. The uncertainty of economic stability after retirement causes social strain and insecurity in thousands of citizens’ lives. Social security is relied upon more today as work related pensions become less thorough.

The increasing fear of social security draining as more baby boomers retire has been a forefront issue for many presidential hopefuls. Social security is unique in the United States because it is viewed as something different from other forms of welfare, like unemployment, assistance to the poor, or public health. Regardless of all the mentioned benefits coming out of the New Deal. In 1969, under the Johnson administration, the Social Security Trust Fund was included in a single unified budget. Though the Trust Fund was taken off budget in 1990, fears of congress spending tax-rolled social security prevail in American political discourse. The fear has escalated with a mass generation retiring at once.

The creation of social security originated out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. After the second largest depression in modern American history during the 2000-2010s, people of all economic brackets have been affected. It is interesting however, that Bill Clinton paved the way for Welfare Reform in 1996—showing his tough guy face towards the unemployed and single mothers while Hillary Clinton advertises a clear message advocating greater support for the retired poor.

Potential Republican nominee, Rick Santorum also aired a final television advertisement reiterating his message of restoring unity in the country. While his message is ultimately “restoring America”, he is scattered in the way he presents it. Images of gardens, buildings, and schools serve as the backdrop while he sits at a desk speaking to the camera. He vaguely mentions key points to his campaign–reminding citizens that the Catholic faith should be more central to all aspects of America–incorporated in it’s laws, objectives, and over the choice of individual’s rights. Furthermore, Santorum lays out his stance on education, stating “your child’s education should be decided by you, not the government.” Further explaining that familial consensus will help restore family unity.

Santorum missed the opportunity to pull in last minute undecided voters. He continues to appeal to the christian right with ideologies of faith and unity, but unlike Clinton, he lacks a focus. Moreover, His message seems to ignore that many parents lack the time and resources to be thoroughly involved in their kids’ school, which is where the government comes in handy. Senator Santorum also talks about the feminist movement and how it has undermined the traditional family while “convincing women that personal accomplishments are the key to personal happiness”(Santorum 2013). Santorum might be wise to tread lightly with comments like these, for they show his sexist opinions, ultimately and obviously alienating women voters.

Another main message in Santorum’s advertisement is in regards to health care. According to Santorum, citizens should have the freedom to make choices with respect to health care. Forcing Obamacare onto people is unjust and “seen as a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church” (Santorum 2013). Santorum is right, everyone should have the freedom to choose. He disregards the thousands of low-income citizens that do not have choice, they simply cannot afford it.

Persuasion Techniques

Democrat Hillary Clinton distributes her message by stating conflicts in the country and around the world and what her plan is in order to improve the situation. Her motives are improving the lives of the people and as a democrat she wants what is best for the country as a whole in order to progress in a healthy and sustainable country as one. A persuasive technique Clinton uses is repetition at the end of every slide when she states that “Hillary Clinton is the leader who will lead America with cleverness, originality, and innovative spirit.” By using repetition she is assuring the citizens that Clinton will be a leader and take actions to better the country since she wants the people to have this image of her. She also appeals to emotions when she mentions another country and the struggles children face when they cannot make it to their fifth birthday. Through this technique Clinton shows that in the presidency she will work with the people in the country as well as neighboring countries in order to improve health and our country as a whole.

The main persuasion technique that Republican Rick Santorum puts in practice in his advertisement is authoritative language, patriotic music and images.  In an authoritative voice Santorum’s talks about a series of ideas that make up his platform. However the manner in which he says it is overly assertive, and has an air of arrogance to it. The authoritative and unduly promising tone almost inspires disconfidence. The background music is a patriotic theme song that he combines with a series of images of her sitting at a desk in front of several all American setting. Although the message about patriotism and unity is clear, the strategy he chose of sitting at a desk in front of a hospital or school, does not seem very natural. The persuasion techniques of this advertisement are not very effective.

This is an excellent strategy made by the Clinton administration. The argument presented in this television advertisement is a very persuasive one. She’s looking at gaining the support of the age bracket in retirement or nearing retirement. These are the folks that not only vote the most, statistically speaking, but are also Bill Clinton’s main supporters.

Facts: Accurate/Misleading

Furthermore, Hillary Clinton’s television advertisement consist more of a hopeful promises rather than empirical evidence. The few facts that are included, are utilized in a successful manner. The only two fact that this advertisement presents is the range of  average social security benefits paid to retired workers annually which lies within $1,230 to $14,760. She also points out that the federal poverty line currently resides at $19,530. Although it would have been beneficial for more factual information to be presented, the few facts do present a strong case. They illustrate a  pressing issue festering within the United States; economic stability among retired Americans, without adequate support from the US government. Clinton’s use of minimal evidence was not optimal, but did have positive outcomes.

Santorum’s television advertising is ineffective due to the void of any facts.  This advertisement is a series of promises that are not adequately backed by facts. His point does not align with logic or reality. He makes outlandish claims that radical feminist have destroyed the traditional nuclear family and undermines how individualism has remained central throughout the history of the United States, ignoring the fact that the core of our constitution emphasizes the individual rights.

The United States will need to decide if it is going to keep believing in empty promises or if change will be created based on real facts.

Emotional Tone

The emotional tone in Senator Clinton’s advertisement was quite effective and persuasive. She appeals to the people by displaying a series of unhappy elderly people working low-wage jobs. The public does not want to see this happening because it is not what should be happening in society. Clinton also poses rhetorical questions that create a powerful argument such as; “Are we going to allow our older Americans to slip into poverty, simply because the government is unprepared to assist them?” The language used in this advertisement embodies an appeal to emotion tone as a way of persuasion.

In analyzing the advertisement Senator Rick Santorum produced for the American people, it is apparent that the the things he is saying as well as the way he is attempting to persuade is unappealing. The advertisement presents no emotion, just a string of proclamations that the candidate seems to want to force people to believe. The tone in which Santorum relays his message comes across as extremely assertive and condescending. For example “As a man of God, I support the people of faith in their argument against obamacare as it is seen as a sin in the eyes of the catholic church.” This statement implies that his Catholicism makes him superior over others. Santorum’s advertisement seems to be unconvincing, it is simply a  public commercial with hollow promises.


In conclusion, as election day nears, the race intensifies and the candidates bring their A-game to the American people. These eight candidates have poured their efforts into gaining people’s vote. Both Republican and Democratic candidates distributed their message in a clever little television commercial. The television advertisements were strategically put together with emotions, pictures, music, impressive facts and other excellent elements. All this to convince citizens that they are the best option. But who is the best option? Who had the best presentation of their platform in their television analysis? Who is sincere? Who will be the the United States President in 2016? That is only up you?

Posted in Tv Advertisement Analysis

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