2004–Vote for Our Dad Ad–Olivia Berardi
This 2004 presidential campaign advertisement, entitled “Vote For Our Dad” is almost laughable, due to its unrefined quality, home-movie styling, and lack of discussion on real policy. While many positive campaign advertisements are character based, and speak to the personal lives and family values of presidential candidates, this one, in particular fails to depict George W. Bush saying anything of real substance at all—regarding policy, values, or otherwise.
The unusual framing of this advertisement is framed as a “behind the scenes” type of ad. Because of this, the advertisements serve to portray George W. Bush in more candid moments, both on the campaign trial, and with his family. Bush is portrayed in both of these two lights through the utilization of out-take clips from other commercials, clips from campaign speeches, and personal moments with friends and family that appear to occur at functions promoting his candidacy.
This advertisement is clever in that it perpetuates Bush’s as a relatable family man, with which many Americans—across the ideological spectrum—can likely identify. In contrast to the majority of campaign advertisements, this one circumvents the mention of anything that might be deemed as controversial. It appears as though this tactic is derived from the overall agenda of this ad—to re-elect President Bush. This advertisement highlights all of the qualities that make Bush likeable as a person and as a president. It reminds viewers why they liked George W. Bush to begin with, and fails to touch on any area that might spark doubt in his capabilities as a leader. Indeed, this advertisement illustrates George W. Bush as someone who should be trusted, if not for his outstanding political lineage, then for his role as an esteemed and respected Southern politician, husband, and father.
For those viewers that are ideologically opposed to George W. Bush’s policies or past actions, this advertisement does nothing to remind them about what they might dislike about Bush. Neither does it serve to bash George W. Bush’s opponents. Surely, an ad promoting Bush’s capacity as a leader and President would invoke some sort of negative response stemming from Bush’s scarily apparent missteps in his first term. Rather than incite any level of controversy about policy, this ad speaks only to Bush’s moral and personal character.
Further, the soft nature of this advertisement might even serve to convince certain individuals who disapprove of Bush’s policies that, at least, Bush is charming and charismatic as a person. The image cultivated by the presence of Bush’s young daughters, along with the clips of family footage shows that President Bush, in all of his flaws, is only human, like the rest of us. While arguably, the “out-takes” from other advertisements might be interpreted as contributory to Bush’s clumsy non-intellectual image, they are effective in portraying Bush in a non-controversial and positive light. Here, we see that character is such an integral part of a successful presidential campaign; the entirety of this ad is focused on Bush’s personality and family background, ignoring the real policy (including mistakes, and successes) that defined his first term. Found to be most effective in states that were already pro-Bush, this advertisement seeks to promote Bush in a lighthearted manner, though offers next to nothing in terms of real substance. For those who approved of this ad, however, the precise lack of real policy is what makes this ad unique, and its subject relatable.