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U.S. Elections

Liberal nonprofit using animated ads to influence voters

Oct 13, 2022

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Cartoons have been pulling on the heartstrings of audiences for decades, and now liberal non-profit Wide Angle Research is looking to harness that emotional response in their political advertisements.

Wide Angle Research focuses on influencing voters who are politically conflicted, recently releasing a series of ads aimed at swaying people on left-leaning issues ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. The development of these ads was influenced by thousands of interviews, including numerous one-on-ones with voters in battleground states. These studies conducted by Wide Angle Research have yielded consumer opinions that say political advertisements featuring real people tend to come off as disingenuous.

“They would say, ‘That’s an actor. That’s fake. I don’t like that person’s voice.’ And that creates this kind of overarching objection,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of Wide Angle Research. “But now, because it’s a cartoon format, people didn’t throw up that barrier. It’s obvious that those aren’t real people. And they allowed their imaginations to be engaged.”

However, when the ads were instead centered around animated subjects, researchers found that audiences were more willing to accept the content’s messaging. The campaign attempts to immerse viewers in an imagined dystopian world ruled by conservative policies, which was discovered to be done more effectively through cartoons.

Visuals like that of a 10-year-old girl forced to carry the child of her sexual abuser or parents being arrested for supporting their transgender child, were more easily imagined as potential reality by voters in an animated format. Just as research drove the decision to create animated ads, the use of this dark imagery by Wide Angle Research was also implemented due to data they collected from their extensive surveying of voters.

“This research is an attempt to go deeper into the understandings of American voters than most political research can go,” said Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist.

While the cartoons helped break barriers for people to accept their messaging as a real possibility, the aggressive stance of the animated shorts in attacking their opposition’s policies was inspired by what Democratic voters want.

When respondents were asked questions like what type of a touch, feel, or texture would the Democratic Party be, ultimately the image that was conjured the takeaway image was ultimately that of a cuddly bunny. It is a reputation that Wide Angle Research is hoping to help shake by calling out and hitting back at Republican policies in their animated ad campaign.

“We’re cute. We’re cuddly but ultimately, we’re ineffectual. You just don’t bring a bunny to a gunfight,” explained Mushovic.

Whether a more aggressive Democratic Party translates to midterms success remains to be seen, but research has shown that liberal voters are looking for some more fight in their party.

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