Analyzing & Creating Political Advertising
Museum of the Moving Image & The NYC / Queens YMCA
November 1, 2012 / Astoria / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. I visited the Museum of the Moving Image Friday evening to observe a political advertising educational program, being offered to the YMCA’s Teens Take The City group.
Although New York has the second highest state population in the nation and is home to the second highest number of Electoral College votes; the state has not been the recipient [or shall I say victim] of a barrage of political advertising – as are not the inhabitants and voters of one of the 2012 swing states.
But, Christopher Wisniewski, the Museum of the Moving Image Deputy Director of Education, reminded me that in 2013 we will likely be inundated with a whole barrage of political ads, as the coming municipal elections include the selection of a new mayor and city council members.
In the photo above you can see one group of teens discussing the infamous ‘Daisy’ commercial broadcast by Lyndon Johnson during the 1964 presidential election. Click here to read more about the Museum of the Moving Image political advertising film workshops in Astoria Queens.
Analyzing & Creating Political Advertising
Museum of the Moving Image & The NYC / Queens YMCA
November 1, 2012 / Astoria / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. Continued. I arrived at the Museum of the Moving Image [MOMI] in Astoria early Friday evening. The museum seemed pretty busy for a Friday evening.
I was guided into one of the workshops where about a dozen or so teens were busy making their own political ads, using materials provided by the museum.
All of them seemed totally engrossed in their work, as you can see in the photo to your right.
Museum of the Moving Image & Teens Take The City
The participants in this three part Museum of the Moving Image workshop enrolled in it through the YMCA Teens Take The City program. Teens Take The City is a city-wide program that includes five Queens YMCA's.
The workshop was segmented into three parts. The first segment involves watching a number of political ads and then analyzing and discussing them. The second and third segments of the workshop were dedicated to kids creating their own ads, complete with script and video footage.
NYC YMCA Programs - Teens Take The City & Mission
I asked Dana Mantella, Director of YMCA City Wide Teenage Programs [YMCA CWTP], to tell me a bit more about how the kids got involved. She said that the MOMI had contacted them to see if they would be interested in participating in a series of workshops that educates young people about political advertising. These workshops dovetailed nicely with curriculum offered through the YMCA City Wide Teenage Programs and so they began scheduling the visit.
Teens Take The City is a civics group which focuses on identifing New York City problems and then solving them. Part of the solution involves debating issues like one might do as a City Councilmember. The YMCA also hosts elections for Teens Take The City offices, and the Museum of the Moving Image workshops dealing with the analysis and production of political ads fit nicely into the YMCA elections process. In the next two Museum of the Moving Image sessions, the kids will create not just generic or historical political ads, but ads that they can use to run for Teens Take The City offices.
Teens Take The City - Participating Queens YMCA's
Teens Take The City is available through the YMCA in all five boroughs, but it is not offered at every Queens YMCA. The participating Queens YMCAs include LIC, Jamaica, Cross Island & two in Flushing YMCA's. Tonight nearly 70 kids were particpating in the workshop.. Last year there were 300 participants in the Teens Take The City program and enrollment for the 2012 - 2013 school year is still in process. Call your local YMCA to sign up.
NYC Teens Take The City convenes every progam participant in NYC three times each year. The first convocation is entitled Mission NYC and will be held in Manhattan in December. The next big event is entitled the Mid Program Event which will be held in Brooklyn in the Winter of 2013. And the last event has historically been held at City Hall, but due to ongoing renovations, it will be held elsewhere in 2013. The last event is now called the Culmination Event. Teen Take The City is available to Middle School and High School students aged 11 through 18 years of age.
Political Advertising Archive - In Astoria Queens
The first segment of the political ad program was to review political ads from the Museum of the Moving Image archive which dates back to 1952. There are approximately 500 ads in the film repository, and the moderator, Jordan Smith who is the Senior Educator, selected a few choice ads to allow the teens to discuss what was going on in these ads.
While I had missed seeing what these kids saw before they started the ad making workshop, I did attend a second session. In that session Jordan, one of the museum educators, showed the kids a number of historical campaign ads and discussed the ads with them.
Museum of the Moving Image - Eisenhower Advertising
The first ad was televised by the Eisenhower campaign in 1952. The ad showed an African American telling Ike that the Democrats told him "he never had it so good". Ike then went on to ennumerate what must have been the problems of the day. An image from the ad is shown to your left.
One of the kids asked if Eisenhower was a racist because he answered the African American man in a stern voice and was so critical of the current situation facing America. Another commented that Ike was not a racist because he had intervened in Little Rock, Arkansas in favor of desegregation of the south.
Separately, it's worth noting that in 1957 Louis Armstrong of Queens cancelled a State Department jazz tour to Russia because of the delayed reaction by Eisenhower in using federal troops to enforce the 1954 Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing the right of African Americans to attend white high schools. He was offended by the brutality of southern whites against the African American kids who wanted to enroll at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in the fall of 1957.
Museum of the Moving Image - Ronald Reagan Advertising
The next ad shown was "Morning in America", a famous Reagan commercial, talking about how good things were following four years of the Reagan presidency. One of the kids said they didn't believe the ad because "nobody is that happy when they're going off to work in the morning". An image from the ad is shown to your right.
The moderator didn't try to sway the kids one way or another in terms of political point of view, but rather tried to use the ads to illuminate different techniques used by candidates to influence the voting public. She asked them if the ads were hard sell or soft sell. She asked what tools were used to support the advertisement such as images, music and editing / transitions.
Museum of the Moving Image - Lyndon Johnson - Daisy Ad
One of the more interesting moments was the kids reaction following the famous Johnson ad now called the Daisy commercial. In the ad a little girl is picking the petals off of a daisy, followed by a missile countdown, and then a number of atomic explosions. The voice over says, "We can live or we can die. Vote November 3rd." Vote for Lyndon Johnson - that is. An image from the ad is shown to your left.
This was commercial was aired less than two years after the Cuban missile crisis when an atomic bomb threat seemed very real. But to the kids of the early 21st century the ad seemed like a joke and they laughed. The discussion talked about the symbolism implicit in the ad, such as the little girl representing innocence, the future, the need for adequate protection and a person's whole life. The discussion went on to compare what the ads had focused on. Ike's ad focused on economic uncertainties, Reagan's was about a good economy, and Johnson's played on fears of war.
Political Advertising Workshops in Astoria Queens
I asked the kids what kind of ads they had done in the workshop. They had all selected positive ads to do, and nobody chose to do attack ads. They selected clips from the MOMI advertising archives [which are also available online 24/7 365 days per year]. The kids then worked on the sequencing, images and voice / music overlays.
There will be a second and maybe a third follow up workshop, where the kids will be able to produce a script, shoot the sequence live, and then edit their ads including music and voice overlays. In the photo to your right are a number of political advertising workshop participants, who are enrolled in the Teens Take The City program sponsored by the YMCA.
2012 Election Ad Campaign Spend & Special Interest Groups
Over $2 billion was spent in this past presidential election - the highest on record. Each presidential candidate collected over $1 billion in campaign contributions, much of which was spent on political advertising. In the neighborhood of $300 million was collected and presumably spent by the largest of many independent special interest groups that participated in the political fray.
Special groups, once restrained from interfering with the electoral process, were given the green light to freely participate in the electoral process as a result of a Supreme Court ruling in 2010, which essentially gave legal entities the same rights as human citizens in participating in the electoral process. As of this writing, the initiatives to rein in outside interference in political campaigns, have been tabled.
In the photo above right are [from left to right], Jordan Smith Senior Educator and Chris Wisniewski Deputy Director of Educaiton for MOMI with Dana Mantella Director of City Wide Teen Programs for the YMCA.
Coming Soon - 2013 NYC Mayoral & City Council Elections
In 2013 Queens residents will be radiated with a lot of political advertising during the races for City Council and the NYC Mayoral election. Thanks to the Museum of the Moving Image workshops and the YMCA's Teen Kids program, these kids should be better equipped to process the information with which they will soon be bombarded.
Photos - Political Advertising Campaigns & Archives in Queens
Click here to view the album containing photos of the political advertising campaigns workshop in Astoria Queens at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. MOMI has a collection of about 500 political campaign ads as of this posting. It's worth noting that between 900,000 and 1,000,000 political ads were made for the 2012 campaign.
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