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Positive Political TV Advertising: Tapping Into Emotion
Terri Harris

When you hear the words “political ad”, I suspect the first thought that comes to your mind is the typical hard sell, negative “you can’t trust the other guys” ad that has long been the basis of many an election campaign.  As much as you may claim not to like these ads, they can be effective, because they influence your emotion, or how you feel about a particular issue or person.

The same is true for positive political ads, as long as there is a foundation on which the emotion within the viewer can be built.  That foundation may be in the friendly personality of your messenger, general support for the issue to be promoted or both. 

Two television ads produced by our company for the recent Saskatchewan provincial election were created to serve three purposes:

  • Promote a particular platform commitment offered by the Saskatchewan Party;
  • Make the messenger, in this case Premier Brad Wall, highly identifiable to the viewer; and
  • Cause the viewer to feel good about the Saskatchewan Party and want to vote for them.

Both ads hit on these three goals with a combination of the message and the visuals.

Highways 2020 Ad


Graduate Retention Program Ad


The first ad titled Highways 2020 promoted the Saskatchewan Party’s commitment, if re-elected, to increased investment in highway construction and maintenance.

The message spoke positively to the progress that had been made by the Government during its previous terms but acknowledged truthfully there is “more work to do”.  This directly speaks to the viewer as an acknowledgement of what they feel every time they hit a pothole or a bad stretch of highway in the province. 

The visuals showed the Premier in his own truck driving down the highway. It’s something Saskatchewan people do regularly.  The viewer can identify with the experience: the solitude, with the expansive Saskatchewan landscape and most would know exactly what a drive like that feels like. 

The Premier spoke to the fact he drives back and forth from his Regina Legislative office to his home in Swift Current regularly, a well reported fact and one that again, many Saskatchewan people identify with given the nature of our province. 

In this way, the ad subtly tapped into a sense of who we are in Saskatchewan, of provincial pride and awareness, and offered the viewer the sense that the Premier is “one of them”, that he knows and understands their life and what could be done to improve it.  The combination of the creative visuals and the messaging resulted in an ad that garnered tremendous positive response and reinforced confidence in the Premier and the Saskatchewan Party during the election campaign. 

The second ad promoted the Saskatchewan Government’s Graduate Retention Program and revisions to it the Saskatchewan Party was proposing that would allow post-secondary graduates to use a good portion of the non-refundable tax credit towards the down payment on their first home. 

The message, once again delivered by Premier Wall, acknowledged the high number of graduates who had benefited from the program in the past but then recognized that with this program change, it could further help young people when money is tight at the beginning their career.  It also subtly spoke to the importance of keeping our young people in Saskatchewan by helping them put down roots here, something the electorate feels strongly and emotionally about.

But it was the visuals of this ad that made it so interesting.  The Premier has a very strong social media presence and we used this as a creative treatment to tell the story in a visually interesting way by showing the Premier tweeting with Saskatchewan young people in a variety of settings.  Again, it used part of the Premier’s regular personality and daily life to make him identifiable to the viewer, but also in a manner that would reach a younger demographic, who are most active on social media.

While these ads and other positive ads like them may fade from memory far sooner than the hard sell, shock and awe ads that first came to mind for you at the start of this post, they served the purpose of demonstrating to viewers that the Saskatchewan Party had new policy ideas for the province, identified with the issues most important to them and to a leader who understood and lived just like them.  

They did that by tapping into the emotion of the viewer.