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Friday, March 05, 2004

Elections soundtracks: Reagan redux? 
James Lileks makes an interesting point about the different music in the campaign commercials so far. He highlights the contrast between the moody, ominous tone of the anti-Bush ads with the sort of stirring, "American" sound of the Bush ad music. The power of music to make deep psychological imprints and form subconscious opinions is something that is, I would think, fairly well-known if somewhat underutilized in the wider advertising industry, but seems especially applicable to candidate commercials, where what you're trying to sell is not a specific good or product, but a whole package of ideology and worldviews. I've long thought that an ideal campaign commercial track would be the track "The Buffalo Hunt" from the Dances With Wolves soundtrack. Listen to the track, and I think you'll understand why; it just has a certain resonation that evokes honesty and decency and that cannot easily be reduced to words or even visuals.

What I also think is interesting is that these Bush ads remind me strongly of some of what I think are the most effective presidential election ads ever, the 1984 Regan ads. Specifically, watch the one titled, "Prouder, Stronger, Better." It's got that music that Lileks was talking about. Notice how it flits to all the different scenes of happy, ordinary Americans doing happy, ordinary things, and that gentle closing chord sequence. Compare to the new Bush ads, which have that same sort of music, and almost identical pattern. I don't think this is a coincidence, and it's probably a great campaign strategy - it worked well for Reagan's reelection, anyway - so long as they don't forget to make the equivalent of the "Bear" ad.
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