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The Impact of Political Advertising

Photo by | Dakota Cunningham C2M 

As Election Day approaches, the 2012 presidential campaign is in full swing. For months, citizens of the battleground state of Virginia have endured countless advertisements funded by the Obama and Romney campaigns. According to the Washington Post, more than $262 million has been spent on ad support for the president, compared to $282 million in support of the Republican nominee. The two parties have spent more than $96 million on Virginia alone. Only Florida has a higher total at $104 million.

The D.C. Metro area has seen or heard more than 24,000 ads, accounting for $44 million of the spending, since mid-April 2012. Each advertisement has the same goal: Form a likeable image of its candidate.

Thom Mozloom, the founder and president of The M Network, an advertising agency based in Miami, joined students participating from the George Mason University Video Studio along with Steve Scully, the political editor for the C-SPAN networks, and students from the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, and Purdue University for an episode of “The Washington Classroom.” Mozloom said, “The brand is the emotional connection a target audience has with a particular candidate, a campaign has to build that connection typically over time, getting the viewer emotionally involved with a candidate.”

Most ads on the air today last only about 30 seconds. “The idea is to connect with the least amount of words and the most amount of emotional impact,” Mozloom said, “something that everybody is going to agree with and have that emotional ‘yes’ to.” While the goal of ads is to create a brand, some viewers, such as Lauren Dean, a Mason alumna with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, choose to ignore the message. “Honestly, I’ve stopped listening to the messages,” said Dean, a 27-year-old resident of Alexandria. “All they do is say negative comments about the opponent instead of telling me their own views or plan.”

Others, such as Kevin McLain, a senior at Mason studying government and international politics, believe the message of campaign ads are not targeted to each individual voter. “As a partisan, I’m not very much affected by political ads,” said McLain, a 20-year old from Manassas. “When I see a political ad, I’m looking at who is targeted, what is the point and what it’s trying to make me feel.” Some advertisement viewers might wonder whose vote is being changed by ads. “Perhaps the ads influence those people who listen to the ad and believe it word for word,” Dean said. “Or maybe they’re intended for those who make their decision based on the negatives of a candidate.”

“I think the people who change which party they vote for every election are the ones who are affected,” McLain said. “A person who is not as politically savvy as someone who studies politics is probably more easily swayed.”

The latest Gallup poll of likely voters from Oct. 28, Hurricane Sandy suspended Gallup poll tracking on Oct. 29, showed Romney with a slight 5-point lead over Obama, making the presidential race a 51-to-46 percent dead heat.

The distance-learning course, which is produced by C-SPAN, is a unique opportunity for students to interview guests via video conference. The course airs on C-SPAN3 on Fridays at 5 p.m. and also streams online (http://www.c-span.org/Washington-Classroom/).

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