The campaign I have selected is from the 1984 presidential election between Bush and Reagan. Reagan was ultimately awarded presidency by the American people and his campaign ads dealt heavily in the persuasive components defined in this chapter. As Reagan’s presidential campaigns are public-relations oriented, the most immediate goal would be to convince at least 51% of voters to cast their ballot in Regan’s favor.
The targeted audience in the campaign ad would be any American, over the age of 18, who watches television. “Voter” is not a requirement for the target demographic because part of the goal of advertisement is to also elicit the action of voting. Even causing discourse about the ad would ideally cause those reached directly to become persuaders themselves (p. 329).
The stage of this ad is the outdoors with a bear lumbering in its natural environment. A soothing, yet serious voice narration tells the audience “some say the bear is tame, others say it’s vicious and dangerous.” It is up to the imagination of the viewer to fill in these vague details with their own personal, fear-based perceptions. The ad goes on to say “isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear.” Here the ad uses this fear as normative control over the audience, while making an appeal to the “intelligent” for peace through strength.
This ad clearly follows the basic assumption that every person wants to be safe and uses this coercion as a basis for their campaign strategy. The ad is telling the viewer, “If you are smart and want to be safe from the bear (your fear), we need to be as strong as the bear to have peace. Reagan can provide that peace.” The power strategy, based in this threat, has proven to be the most controlling form of persuasion(p. 324).
While it is never revealed to the audience who is making the claims about the bear or what the bear symbolizes, with the Cold War still in effect, the Soviet Union was most likely its intended representation and the United States is played by the lone hunter. These images of the bear and the hunter, while not implicitly patriotic, primes the audience for their national ideology. The implicit nationalism (p. 353) plays a role in the final image of candidate Reagan and the American flag. At this point, the message of patriotism and goals of the campaign are revealed and the audience is left to individually assess the content’s legitimacy.
This advertisement is effective on multiple levels. It had the clearly established goal of motivating the audience to vote for Reagan, and even praises them for making the “smart” choice. It creates a strategy based in threats and fear of the consequences. It mobilizes the resources needed to create and produce the ad. Even the vagueness offers a bonus to the persuasiveness of this ad. While the explicit legitimacy is missing, the implicit seriousness of the claims presented is to be translated by the audience. This makes the ad relatable by the broadest based possible, those with fears.
The promotion component lacks in name recognition. Having the narrator verbally state Reagan’s name would have further established identity to the audience, especially those not directly looking at the screen or those with vision impairment. Credibility was also lacking, as it never states who is making the claims against “the bear.” The vagueness of the ad may be viewed as illegitimate and thusly ignored. Yet, the benefits created by broadening the advertisement’s reach is sufficient reasoning to justify the lack of concrete evidence.