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AdStand: A look at the campaigning for the US Presidential race

What stands out is the lack of acrimony and prominence of civility in the broader political narratives in the campaigns. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, may the best ad win

Delhi | February 23, 2016

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

This has been one of those weeks in India where politics has dominated pop culture to the extent that every other conversation has been pushed to the margin. As a country we remained glued to a host of hashtags and TV news show that made the whole internet stop and wonder. As usual there were two camps.

Because the week was dominated by politics, it is best to look at some political advertising. The US Presidential polls are gathering momentum, and three candidates are sparing no effort to gain the right for the final battle for the Oval Office.

I should make this clear, that I know nothing about the politics of US, apart from the fact that they have two parties, and that the candidates have to win the right to run for office in a complex process, and then the country chooses one to be CEO of the USA.  I am looking at the ads of the candidates purely as ads, especially because powerhouse creative agencies like Droga5 are involved.

First, the campaign for Republican Party’s Donald Trump. Trump is rich, a showman, media star, outspoken and the challenger. His party is not the incumbent in office and that makes it easier for him to challenge the norms. His campaign is exactly like his public persona: outspoken and challenging. Some say even politically incorrect.

He has built the entire campaign on ‘Making America Great Again’. His entire campaign is built on challenging the status quo. He is questioning everything. He is questioning the career politicians’ ability to get work done. He is questioning the crumbling infrastructure and job losses in America. He is questioning the healthcare system. Most famously, he is questioning the immigrant policy of America. His creatives are mounted very simplistically. He is on camera speaking directly to the audiences, cajoling them, motivating them to act and forcing them to go out and vote for him. It’s not an intellectual conversation; it’s extremely simple in its appeal. Making America Great Again is challenging in tonality and somehow is working for Trump whose message is “I will make it happen”.

If we compare his campaign to what happens in India, then this is as rhetoric driven a campaign as can be; there are promises galore, albeit the promises are grand and full of patriotism, and the campaign is a little less on specifics. May be that’s how it works in the US. Or may be, because the campaign is more to win the party nomination currently and not defeat the Democrat.

The whole gamut of his campaign videos are here: https://www.facebook.com/DonaldTrump/videos. Do read the comments on videos. What stood out for me was the lack of vitriol that we have got used to here in India.


Hillary Clinton seems to be winning the Democrat nomination battle, and she does have support of heavy artillery. Like this ad called ‘Children’  done by Droga5. The ad takes you back in time, almost 40 years and showcases Hillary as someone who was always involved with children’s issues. This is a clever piece of creative as it builds one singular dialogue that evolves over four decades. From a young, unpolished rookie to someone who is standing for the cause of next generation of America.


The next ad has the compelling Morgan Freeman narrating how Hillary could have been the top draw legal eagle; instead she devoted her life to causes of children and justice and broader good of America. Like the children narrative, this too chronicles her journey across the years.

For a country where social media is well integrated with mainline, it's a little strange to see a presidential campaign with no hashtags being used in creative.


The Bernie Sanders campaign has one powerful commercial called ‘Together’. In the divisive political wars it is rare to see a campaign that is built more on idealism and less on political issues. The other ad in the campaign, ‘Look for America’, is even more feel good than Together. Two very good narratives, but possibly two narratives that leave you with a good feeling but less of action. Yet, as a political campaign they are standout ads. The overall campaign of Bernie Sanders is built on the great future of America; it is challenging in tonality, and is far less rhetorical in tonality than the Trump campaign.


What stands out for me as someone who has worked a little bit in the political campaigning circuit is the lack of acrimony and prominence of civility in the broader political narratives.

This is early in the campaign, the elections are in November, and there would be more ads that we will see. Trump, Hillary or Bernie, may the best ad win.


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