Creative Insights: Avoiding Visual Clichés and Better Understanding Your Ad Targets


Add Republican media strategist Ryan Horn to the list of people who think far too many campaign spots look the same. According to Horn, it’s why he built his firm, Bullhorn Communications, around the idea of getting rid of the “inauthentic visual clichés” that dominate so many political ads. 

I see so many Republican ads where every piece of B-roll is in slow motion,” Horn said in a recent interview with C&E. “So a boring, ugly frame put in slow motion is just more of a boring, ugly frame that doesn’t advance the storyline.”

As the creative, having a purpose for each and every visual in a given spot means you’ll end up with a more compelling end product — and crucially, one that doesn’t immediately give itself away as your standard political spot. 

How are you setting the scene? And everything that is in the scene should have a purpose or it should not be in the scene,” advised Horn. “And that takes investing in good photography, experienced [production staff], good copywriters.” 

Investing in that last piece, Horn emphasized, is what will really take more of your ads to the next level.  

“I see too many ads that show a lack of copywriting strength,” he said. “We have to become better writers. It starts at the very beginning — understanding and visualizing the voter, and that sounds really artsy fartsy to a lot of people, and I understand that. But it helps a lot.” 

The abundance of negative issue spots that clutter the landscape cycle after cycle isn’t going to stop any time soon, and with the right reach and frequency, the messages do eventually sink in, Horn noted. But too often they aren’t written or conceptualized with the swing voter in mind, he contends.

Investing more time at the front end of the process allows you to understand the voter you want to reach (before you start the copywriting process) and also lets you get to know your client (before you try to write in their voice).

Know who they are. Know what they want to say. And know what is interesting about their story and then present that right,” he said. “And so if you can do those things authentically and tailored to the ad platform, you’re going to have much better success.” 

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