Who’s Bucking the Norms of Campaign Advertising

jared lyons

BY Jared Lyons

October 23, 2020

Public Affairs Marketing

While this election cycle has been anything but usual, the campaign advertising from both the Biden and Trump camps hasn’t proven particularly revolutionary. Both are capitalizing on tired tropes: Biden on hope for a brighter tomorrow and Trump on fear of losing his version of the American dream. And of course, attempts at hipness to court the elusive youth vote (I’d be shocked if Joe even understands this “Mean Girls” reference).

From my perspective, some of this year’s most innovative campaign advertising has come from a somewhat unusual source: The Lincoln Project, a political action committee formed by a group of former republican strategists determined to ensure Donald Trump doesn’t win a second term (and bringing down his most loyal supporters along with him).

While the group quite rightly receives their fair share of criticism (isn’t it the politicians and policies they once advocated for that led to our current political climate?), their advertising strategy has intrigued me more than anything I’ve seen from this year’s contenders.

And I’m not alone. The group has become this election’s darling of liberal-leaning media. Many of their ads go viral and receive millions of views by bucking the traditional norms. Their ads are quick, provocative and highly shareable.

They offer a damning portrayal of a president and a party who have lost the faith of the American people. Their “Mourning in America” ad, an obvious play on Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” (perhaps the most famous campaign ad of all time), was particularly poignant as the country faces upwards of 223,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But despite multi-million dollar television ad buys, including on Fox News, leaders at the Lincoln Project admit they’re often only targeting an audience of one: the president himself. And he’s listening, often tweeting about the group and its members, and by default, only furthering their reach and generating huge donations while they’re at it. Their traditional, digital and social media savvy has gotten them air time across news networks and in every corner of the internet, even creating a digital toolkit to allow supporters to seamlessly share their message.

Will their work do much to move the needle in this hyper-divisive election? I lean toward no. The usual cast of undecided voters is smaller than it’s ever been and most voters’ minds have been made up for months.

For me, the more interesting question is what will become of The Lincoln Project after the election – will they continue to buck the GOP establishment or fall back into old ways?

Only time will tell, but for now, they’ve certainly made an impact on their audience of one.

And if you’re interested in seeing more of their work, you can check out a roundup of some of their most popular ads here.

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jared lyons

BY Jared Lyons

October 23, 2020

Public Affairs Marketing