Political attack ads have the potential for great success when they are based on incisive insight into voter values and executed with creative genius (see "Pudding Fingers). But can an attack be successful if it is generated from prompts to an A.I.? The creative community waits with bated breath to hear the answer to that critical question facing advertising.
“Beat Biden” is a 30-second attack ad that was created entirely with A.I. imagery. The ad focuses on a dystopian future in which President Joe Biden was re-elected, hoping to elicit a negative reaction to Biden and improve former President Donald Trump’s appeal. Rather than attacking the character of Biden, the ad intends to convince the audience of Biden’s incompetence as a nation leader using misinformation masked as hypothetical future states. Sounds like good red-meat fodder for an emotional journey for the audience, right? But did the A.I.-generated spot connect with the audience or did the intended emotional cues fall flat?
Creatives rejoice! This A.I. generated attack ad from the RNC failed to engage the populace, scoring in the mere 18th percentile in its ability to activate voter emotions. This means that the RNC will need to spend a disproportionate amount of donor dollars on this “flat-affect” ad in order to achieve even average influence with its content. And what that means for creatives, is that your creative work, is more than just safe, it is rising in importance in the age of A.I.
Digging more deeply into the findings we see the significant financial consequence and opportunity costs of poorly created content.
“Beat Biden” was run through the Rapid Subtext scientific testing platform to reveal not only the engagement with the ad, but also its potential to influence voter attitudes. While the movie trailer-like narrative of the ad failed to engage the audience, forced exposure to the content did change several positive associations with Trump.
After a single viewing, voters found Trump more Competent and more of a Leader. Importantly, when the emotional journey data was analyzed by these changes in attitude, we gained keen insight into the messages that were the most influential on voter attitudes. In the video above, note the emotional journey of those voters who end up feeling Trump is more Competent after viewing. These viewers expressed positive emotional responses to the sequence of three key message points: banking, border control and drug addiction. This evidence supports the staying power of some of Trump’s campaign platform positions from 2015 which won him early primary states by focusing on drug addiction and blaming it on the border and illegal immigrants.
Further analysis revealed that the A.I.-generated spot influenced people by reinforcing pro-Trump supporter attitudes. Those who showed an increase in implicit appeal for Trump, had an immediate positive reaction to the ad compared to other viewers, especially during the moment claiming Biden has been “the weakest president we’ve ever had”.
While the advertisement influenced those who already favored Trump, to sway Independents or swinging Democrat voters, this ad would be costly. “Beat Biden” improved Implicit Emotional Appeal for Trump, but the ad also created a Halo Effect for the other candidates by reminding the audience of the importance of leadership and stability rather than chaos without clearly showing Trump as the hero.
These insights into voter emotions are valuable for all candidates in the race:
- The A.I.-generated ad fails to emotionally engage the audience (82% of all 30 second ads are better). Beware of the true costs of A.I.-generated creative.
- False content cloaked as hypothetical future outcomes reinforces pre-existing biases toward Trump. Beware, misinformation continues to influence voter attitudes.
- Analysis of change in implicit attitudes reveal important messages for the 2024 general election. Be aware that messages and counter messages on the following issues will influence voter attitudes:
- Financial stability – framed as a threat of massive regional bank failures
- Border control – framed as the country being overrun by mobs of illegal immigrants
- Drug addiction and dystopia – using San Francisco & the fentanyl crisis to illustrate
And what is the ultimate message on the ability of an A.I.-generated attack ad to be successful? Creative genius is still required to optimize the impact of your messages and to minimize the wasteful spending of donor dollars on “flat-affect” advertising that fails to engage.