Seeing Spots: A Functional Analysis of Presidential Television Advertisements, 1952-1996

By William L. Benoit | Go to book overview

Appendix: The Sample

I began by buying as many videotapes of presidential television spots as I could afford (the Central States Communication Association Federation Prize provided much of these funds, along with the Loren Reid Fund, the Department of Communication, and the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Missouri). I transcribed each advertisement into separate computer files for each campaign. I focused on verbal aspects of the ads (and described important visual and aural elements as well; however, many ads are simply "talking heads" where the candidate, a citizen, or another endorser stands or sits in front of the camera and talks). I was awarded a Big Twelve Fellowship to spend two weeks at the University of Oklahoma Political Communication Archive. When I worked in the Archive, I focused on locating and transcribing ads that were not on any of the videotapes I had purchased. As I watched an ad at the Archive, I used a word processor to search the file for that campaign to see if I had already transcribed that commercial from one of the tapes I had purchased. If so, I skipped to the next ad. On the other hand, if the spot was new to me, I transcribed it. Thus, I tried to make my stay at Oklahoma as efficient as possible, concentrating on adding spots that I could only find and view there.

I began with general election spots, which were my first priority. Then I tried to find a variety of primary spots, looking for ads from diverse campaigns and candidates. Finally, I wanted to locate some general election spots by third-party candidates. This would give me a variety of kinds of televisions spots, from a variety of candidates and campaigns, to compare and contrast.

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