The concept and evolution of television ads produced by political organisations and parties during electoral campaigns have changed noticeably since they first appeared in the United States in the 1960s. Today, campaign ads have become a hybrid genre, the product of the convergence of different television formats ranging from advertisements, to fiction, documentaries, news reporting, music videos, political propaganda, parodies and sports and music events.
Given the agenda to which modern campaigns are subjected, campaign ads have become extremely important, thanks to their ability to concentrate a repetitive message. The everydayness of political life during legislative terms, combined with growing levels of voter abstention, have turned campaign ads into an extreme manifestation of the visualisation of campaign programmes as they search, in short, for a niche in the political-commercial mindset of the voters. More than anything, campaign ads endeavour to create a framework or logo that will last the length of the campaign and tip the balance of the voters - especially the so-called ‘undecideds,’ an increasingly large percentage of the global electorate - to the party that produced them.
Campaign ads do not always attempt to illustrate a party’s principle ideas. Rather, due to the high level of competition in elections and the fact that the central themes propounded by many opposing ideological positions are not very different, ads sometimes deploy messages that contain harsh references to opponents. This results in a kind of highly stereotyped, aggressive and theatrical editing and narration that has an intense media impact. This in turn leads to the creation of show-business models in a medium, television, which already has that tendency.
Campaign Ads. The Show Business of Democracy is the result of a research and exhibition project from the Virreina/Centre de la Imatge de Barcelona art centre. This reflection on the ads broadcast on television stations and websites presents campaign videos shown around the world between 1989 and 2008.