Creating Campaign Commercials
Introducing the Project
Kristina Frank: What I have them do at first is learn a little bit about where the two main party candidates stand on different issues. So we research the candidates positions on a variety of different issues, about half a dozen issues, so they learn a little bit about where they stand on those issues, and they also take a little survey in my class to help them figure out which side they tend to lean more towards, more the Democrats' side or the Republicans' side. And then based on that information, they pick a side and start working on a campaign for a candidate.
Kristina Frank: Down at the bottom there is a rubric, as well as, I tell you, I list for you what I want to see in your commercial. Your commercial has to have at least one fact, one opinion, just like your campaign posters; at least one form of propaganda, and I don't care which one you use, endorsement, glittering generality, symbols, any of those are fine; and I want a discussion of where your candidate stands on at least two issues.
Kristina Frank: And they're going to have to identify that for me, what it is that they included, and then also thinking at it from the perspective of somebody creating a commercial, your goals are to educate the voters and ultimately to help your candidate win.
Student: We're just brainstorming right now about all of the things we could do, so some of the ideas are like, in the end we're going to close with signs in the community of, like, people that are going to vote for Romney are like. As the opinion, we're going to say like, Mitt Romney is the obvious choice for America. And what kind of propaganda, we're going to use symbols like an American flag in the background and have him like, talk about his family or something, that's 'plain folks.'
Filming the Ads
Student 1: So then after—yeah, stuff like that—then you would start talking about your point of view and stuff and then—
Student 2: Wait, so Jill Stein gets a raise?
Student 1: No. You are going to be a 'plain folk' and then we change you into Jill Stein.
Student 2: Oh, yep, I'll use like a wig or something, because I don't want to confuse them.
Student 1: Okay. I have a black wig. You can wear a black wig. And then—
Student 2: I've always wanted black hair.
Student 1: And then you would start talking about your view on things. Then you would go to Christine and I running through the grass like children.
Student 2: Paint the world green for your children.
Student 1: And then—
Student 2: The generation of tomorrow.
Student 1: Yeah, something like that.
Student as Jill Stein: Hi, I'm Jill Stein, and I approve this message.
Student as Jill Stein: Hi, I'm Jill Stein. One of the major issues this year is employment. To help employment, I'm going to get rid of NAFTA and other free trade programs, as well as put into effect the Full Employment Program, which will create 25 million new green jobs. I will also support grants and low-interest loans for small businesses—
Another issue I'm interested in is workers' rights. When I become president, I'll work to make minimum wage higher, I'll support full workers' rights in the workplace, and I will also end discrimination in the workplace.
Student as Older Woman: I just started my new job at SRS, and I'm making 300 thousand dollars a year.
Student as Younger Woman: Hi, I just started my job at SRS, and I make 30 thousand dollars a year.
Student as Citizen: Hi, I'm a supporter of Jill Stein, and one of the major issues that she wants to end is discrimination in the workplace. There are three factors to this: age, race, and gender. As you saw in the example, the two women were actually different ages, but the one that was younger got the lower pay. But this does not seem equal. With Jill Stein as president, we will have a better America and everybody will have equal pay.
Kristina Frank: So are we coordinating filming? Is that's what's going on right now?
Student 3: Yeah, we've already decided, he's going to be Obama, he's going to be Romney, Josh and Sean are going to be news anchors, he's going to write the script and I'm going to be filming and editing—
Student 4: And I'm the moderator.
[Students talk with each other about creating Mitt Romney ad]
Voiceover: This is what will happen at the presidential election.
Student as News Anchor: Tonight we have a very important presidential debate going on, between Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate and Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate. Take us to that.
Student as Jim Lehrer: Hi, I'm Jim Lehrer and welcome to the 2012 presidential debate between President Obama and—
The first question will be from this gentleman over here.
Student as Audience Member: So what do you plan to do with the government?
Student as Obama: Well, gentlemen, or ladies, I plan to convert to green energy.
Student as Jim Lehrer: Romney?
Student as Romney: I plan to cut federal spending and be less [?]—
Student as Jim Lehrer: Thank you, Governor Romney, for those words. Now for our next question from this creepy fellow over here.
Student as Audience Member: Hello, guys. What do you plan to do about the economy?
Student as Jim Lehrer: President Obama, your thoughts?
Student as Obama: Well, [?] sir, my plan is to help out and get more jobs, help the struggling families, help out those pesky homeowners, and I'd like to fix the financial crisis.
Student as Jim Lehrer: Mr. Romney, your thoughts on the government?
Student as Romney: I will rebuild the American economy on foundations of hard work, free enterprise, and innovations.
Putting Analysis to Work
Student 1: We can slot other things in there and then it'll be like—
Student 2: And then it can be like— And with worrying about all of this education and saving for college, which is just around the corner, how would we have money for taxes? —
Student 1: Yeah. And how are my parents supposed to pay this when—
Student 2: Say, we're going to show a clip, not even from the debate, but show a clip from something they said, and then we'll be like the lower-class people, and we'll say like, how that affects us and then—
Scott Pelley: You made upon your investments, personally, you made about 20 million dollars last year and you paid 14 percent in federal income taxes. That's the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes 50 thousand who paid a higher rate than you did?
Mitt Romney: Yeah, I think it's the right way to encourage economic growth.
Voiceover: The millionaires and billionaires, just like Mitt Romney, make as much as an average middle-class American makes in a year in one week. Paying 14 percent of taxes for the millionaires and billionaires isn't going to affect them as much as 14 percent would for middle-class Americans. Romney's plans to cut taxes for millionaires like himself and raise them on anyone who doesn't make 250,000 dollars annually—that's 98 percent of the U.S.
With this plan in effect, the rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer. This won't help America. This will hurt the ones who are already hurting. If Romney becomes president this will be hard on the people of the U.S. who are teaching, helping, and fighting for America.
Romney supports Paul Ryan's plan to cut education funding by 20 percent. That's not how America should be. Obama's going to make sure that kids go to school prepared with basic knowledge. Obama believes teachers aren't being paid enough for building our kids' education and helping them succeed in life. If you want to make sure that your kids get an education they need to succeed in life, vote for President Obama.
Barack Obama: I'm Barack Obama, and I approve this message.
Kristina Frank: This is the first time I've really had them do that sort of in-depth analysis of prior commercials. We would watch them before, but we didn't get into the whole looking at the close reading and the sourcing and that sort of thing. So I'm really curious to see how that plays out, and then maybe based on the results that I get I'll see from there if there's anything that I want to tweak in the future.