Magazine article Politics Magazine

Mastering the TV Production Basics

Magazine article Politics Magazine

Mastering the TV Production Basics

Article excerpt

Two years ago, former Wall Street giant Bear Stearns predicted political advertising spending for the 2007 primary and 2008 general election cycles would total $2.5 billion dollars, with nearly 90 percent of that spending directed toward television. If only they could have done as good a job foreseeing their own future. The prediction hit the nail on the head. Total spent: $2.6 billion, with over $2.4 billion on TV--up nearly 35 percent from 2004.

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Even with a whole new generation of political media consultants busy perfecting the integration of wireless advertising through social networking and user-posted video sites, television remains the biggest game-changer in political advertising. And you don't need a big-time political firm to master it.

If you're new to the world of media consulting or, like myself, wear multiple hats as media buyer, copywriter and spot producer, the task of running a hotly contested political media campaign can be overwhelming. But keeping your head above water is easier than you might think. Here are some basic production and media-buying strategies that are sure to strengthen campaigns of any size.

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Before You Shoot

When it comes to reaching potential voters, the quality of the ad campaign is just as important as its message. So savvy media consultants need to think like Hollywood producers--star value, story value and production value all add up to blockbuster success. Here are three things you can do to improve your TV spots before you even shoot a frame.

Look the Part: You've heard the phrases "You only get one chance to make a first impression," and "Image is everything." They get repeated all the time in the advertising world because it takes most people less than five seconds to make that first impression and 55 percent of it comes from non-verbal communication.

Looks matter--and it's your job as the consultant to make sure your candidate isn't stylistically stuck in a past decade. Not only does the suit have to be well fitted and pressed for the camera (HD can be unforgiving), you should also be prepared to advocate your candidate shave his '70s-style "porn mustache" or suggest her roots may be in need of a quick dye job. Remember, if candidates don't look the part, how can you expect anyone making a snap judgment to see them as the next mayor, judge or member of Congress?

Show, Don't Tell: A good ad is about more than just your candidate's history--how he's "the son of a steelworker," or she's a "dedicated hockey mom of three." Those are often cliched ways of telling voters that your candidate is "one of them." The most interesting story to voters is their own, and the great thing about TV is that it's a moving, "show me" medium. So don't tell us your candidate is from blue-collar stock. Show it in an action shot with his sleeves rolled up, listening to, or working alongside, the common man.

Have a Plan: It's important to gauge your voters ahead of time--you want to adjust your message before you waste time shooting a lot of useless video. You should also write a script before shooting. Obviously, a script is necessary when plans call for an on-camera speech, but even non-speaking action scenes should be written out ahead of time. I'm not saying you should reject spontaneity. Many great, campaign-defining moments have been unplanned and unscripted, but don't rely on serendipity.

On the Set

Have you ever seen one of those poorly-produced cable commercials for a local business that screams "amateurish" and "cheap?" Unless they're offering a ridiculously low price, do you want to patronize that business after you see that ad? Then what makes you think a cheaply produced political spot is going to get you votes? Here are three simple things that you can't afford to get wrong.

Stay Steady: Make sure your crew uses a tripod. …

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