"Things are Bad and I’m the Hero You Need to Comeback" - DeSantis

On May 24th, Ron DeSantis made the official announcement of his candidacy for President. His “I’m running for president to lead our Great American Comeback” Instagram announcement quickly reached 2.5+ million views on Instagram.

The “Running for President” Instagram ad features dramatic music, provocative inter-titles, narration from DeSantis himself, and clips of the candidate directly speaking to the audience. The alarming start of the spot evokes significant negative emotion from the audience by focusing on the issues facing voters in the US. The creative journey then pivots in a direct attempt to improve the credibility of DeSantis’ candidacy by using his experience as the governor of Florida as evidence of his capability to solve these issues.

Is this narrative arc effective for the DeSantis campaign?

What did those 2.5 million viewers feel when they saw the Instagram post from the new candidate? Did it make them feel inspired? Anxious? A little hopeful? A little angry? Of the audience members who felt inspired and hopeful, did those emotions lift their likelihood of voting for DeSantis?

To answer those questions, we need to look at the emotional experience of viewers and tie those emotional experiences to the change in attitudes (good or bad) toward DeSantis. The proof is in the pudding fingers, as one of DeSantis’ opponents say.

Our Findings

Our analysis of this Instagram ad, revealed that the audience found this pudding quite delicious. DeSantis’ “Running for President” post was both highly engaging and influential. Exposure to the content led to an 8-point lift in DeSantis’s implicit appeal, moving DeSantis from an implicitly negative impression starting point to neutral appeal for Republicans and Independents after a single viewing of the spot. This indicates that the creative is highly effective and through repeated exposure, DeSantis can expect those momentary lifts in emotional appeal to encode in the memories of voters.

But beyond identifying that the spot is effective and should have more media budget put behind it, can we learn anything more fundamental that DeSantis or his competition can leverage in future communications?

Yes. Analysis of the emotional journey of those voters who had a change in implicit perception of DeSantis after the ad revealed several message points that emotionally moved the audience.

In the video below see if you can spot the key moments that result in emotional reactions that change the minds of Republican and Independent voters.

Here are the key moments that produced emotional changes:

  1. At second 18, DeSantis prepares to speak to his followers onstage and he mentions how
    "Success is attainable and freedom is worth fighting for.” We see a significant lift in Engagement when he says this effective phrase, but he has a lot of work to do.

  2. DeSantis then turns his back to the viewers and proceeds to move towards the stage. While doing
    this he says “Riding the ship requires restoring sanity to our society, normalcy to our communities
    integrity to our institutions,” (second 26). Perhaps he is insinuating that the power is allowing people to envision a better America. 

  3. When DeSantis lands his messaging when he says “Law and Order over Disorder” (second 46), viewers were more emotionally moved towards the presidential candidate. This indicates “law and order” is a great message point for DeSantis and he sets up the end of the ad, allowing him to evoke more positive emotion.

  4. At second 65, viewers immediately respond negatively towards DeSantis when he mentions he is “running for President to lead the great American comeback”. The emotional response is truly telling.

  5. At the very end (second 67) we see an incredible positive response towards the presidential brand. Due to the mixture of thematic music and visual branding, tension is built and viewers are interested.

Instagram posts and reels reach a vast audience and allow candidates to position themselves informally –building discussion series, speaking to followers, recording their campaign journeys, speaking out about current issues in the media – or formally, presenting social media users with political advertisements. DeSantis’ Instagram launch was effective and through Emotion AI we now know why – engaging creative that lands the key message points is winning the day with Republican and Independent voters. When you optimize your messaging and find the most emotional points, you can showcase something even more powerful in a shorter timeframe. 


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