Presidential campaign ads are formulaic. In many cases, the viewer sees a montage of established symbols flashed across the screen: American flags flying, wheat fields rustling, Main Streets lined with shoppers, people going to work.
Symbols are a powerful way of quickly relating a message to an audience. American flags, for instance, are used to represent freedom, while wheat fields are used to represent prosperity. But which symbol best represents 21st century jobs? Apparently, it’s the trusty table saw. Nothing like sparks flying off a table saw to tell people, “This candidate embodies the dynamism of the American economy.”
In an effort to track the general messaging behind this year’s presidential ads, Smart Media Group has kept a playlist of all of the television-worthy spots uploaded to YouTube by the presidential candidates, PACs and issue groups. So far, SMG has tallied 98 different broadcast-quality ads that have been uploaded to YouTube and relate to the 2012 GOP primary election. Of those 98 ads, 22 are negative ads, 67 are positive ads and 9 are “contrast” ads, or positive/negative.
SMG also has counted eights ads that have featured a table saw with sparks flying. Of these eight ads, five have been positive ads, two have been negative ads and one has been a contrast ad.
Watch how each candidate lets the saw tell a story:
1. Believe in America: Mitt Romney was the first candidate to feature the table saw in his ad, “Believe in America.” It was an attack ad on President Obama. Not too many sparks flying, but definitely bright.
2. America’s CEO: Friends of Herman Cain produced this positive ad called “America’s CEO.” It features a much more impressive shot of sparks flying.
3. Rebuilding the America We Love: Newt Gingrich entered Iowa with this positive ad. It looks like the whole factory is ablaze.
4. Freedom and Opportunity: Romney also released a positive ad called “Freedom and Opportunity.” This shot is a bit more complicated, with the candidate actually walking behind the welder.
5. Best Chance & Very Best Chance: Rick Santorum featured the table saw in his positive ad aired in South Carolina. It includes a great, full-screen shot of sparks flying.
6. Timid vs. Bold: Gingrich featured this table saw in his contrast ad, “Timid vs. Bold.” This shot is a nice switch up from the traditional close up of the table saw.
7. Mitt Romney: Job Creator?: MoveOn.org aired this attack ad on cable networks in New Hampshire. Nice shot of the man working with the table saw.
8. Leadership: The Pro-Rick Perry Make Us Great Again PAC aired “Leadership” in Iowa and South Carolina. It may have the best shot of sparks flying from a worker’s saw.
Sarah Stone is a research analyst with Smart Media Group. She specializes in tracking campaign spending for SMG’s clients. When she’s not analyzing the competition’s political spending, she assists with building media plans and functions as the firm’s resident cartographer.
A version of this post was also published on Smart Media Group’s blog, Smart Blog.