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Politicians and political strategists are often obsessed with words, feeling that they are the critical difference between victory and defeat.
You can see that obsession in all the talk about the latest slogans, which were certainly crafted with hours and hours of focus groups and back and forth discussion in *very important* meetings.
And both the Liberals’ and Conservatives’ latest ads feature a lot of talking, with their respective party leaders pushing talking points that were also quite certainly meticulously thought over and debated before being put into the finished product.
However, despite all that obsession with words, the best way to actually figure out the effectiveness of the pre-election ads is to watch them with the sound off.
Ignore the words, ignore the slogans, and watch the visuals.
That’s how to figure out which ads work, and which ones don’t.
The key reason for this is that we are all bombarded with so many ads and demands on our attention that the details of nearly everything we see fades away almost immediately, leaving behind only a residual “impression” and feeling.
Combined with the fact that most people instantly distrust—and with good reason—everything they hear from a politician, and it becomes clear that the words of a specific ad will get lost in the shuffle.
The Conservative and Liberal ads will show up for many people on YouTube, in which case they will either be skipped, or mostly ignored, as people wait to get to the content they actually want to see.
On TV, the ads will compete with every other ad people see, meaning it will be almost completely forgotten. If you’re not sure about that, just ask yourself how many details you remember from all the ads you’ve seen today. Probably not much at all.
Also, consider the fact that a large percentage of communication is non-verbal. While the study by Dr. Albert Mehabrian—which found the impact of a message in terms of viewers “liking” of the person delivering the message is 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone of voice, and 7 percent the actual words used—is often misquoted as a blanket truth stating only 7 percent of communication is verbal, it has significant relevance for politics.
Since campaigns are so leader-focused, “liking” is an essential part of winning an election. If people get a fleeting sense of either Andrew Scheer or Justin Trudeau from a glimpse of their ads, and form either a ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ impression of them, that impression will be largely based on what they see, rather than what they hear.
Ironically, this gap between how obsessively political pundits and strategists look at politics, and how the vast majority of Canadians consume political content, is a key reason why it’s often better to ask your family and friends what they think about a political campaign to get a sense of what people are really thinking and feeling.
So, I encourage you to take a look at the videos below, turn off the sound, and really get a sense of what impression is conveyed by the visuals in these two ads, regardless of what you personally think of the party leaders.