Ad Watch Project Assignment Sheet


The ad watch assignment will require you to do an in-depth analysis of 2 campaign 2006 television advertisements.  The assignment will be done in groups of 2, so that you can divide tasks and double-check each others’ work.  Be sure to pick an ad from each side of a race.


The report will be posted on-line.  Please submit a written copy and an e-mailed copy to myself and the student coordinator for the project, Tim Lynch at   Since these ad watches are meant to be useful to the community, be sure to get yours done by October 24th, so that they can be posted!


The adwatches should be several pages long with careful citation of sources and links.  Put sources in parentheses with hyperlinks so that interested parties can follow them.


Sections to include:


I. Description of the ad

·        Which campaign?

·        When did it air? (specify when you saw it)

·        What is the title of the ad?  If one isn’t obvious, create one.

·        Describe the look, text, music, scenes, etc.

·        Link to the advertisement if it is available online.

·        Scroll down on this link  to see examples of the types of questions you might answer in this section.


II. Techniques

·        Describe in some detail the techniques used in this ad, and the purpose for such techniques.  Quote scholarly sources for this.  This should take up several paragraphs, with footnoted sources.  Look for: visual presentation, music, text, use of human props or other settings, emotional appeals, etc.


·        Here is a source for types of propaganda – you might identify which is being used, and describe why it fits the description.

·        Here is another good source for techniques:

·        And another:



III. Adwatch


Criteria for evaluating the ad:


Type of ad: introduction, negative, issue-based, image, etc.  Classify the advertisement.


Context: How does this ad fit into the campaign in general?  How does it compare with other ads by the opponent or by the same candidate?  What is the policy context?  In general, how does it relate to other considerations outside of this particular ad?


Rate each of the following on a scale of 1-10,  10 being the highest.


Truthfulness:  This should be an important piece.  Is the ad accurate?  Misleading?  Provide details, specifics, evidence, and examples with citations.  This is where you can shine.


Effectiveness: How effective is this ad likely to be?  Judge this based on research on campaign advertising, public opinion polls on the topics, etc.  Make sure to cite your sources for all of this.


How informative is it?  How much useful information can the average citizen glean from this ad?  Have they learned something of substance? 


IV. Resources: If a citizen were to want more information to better understand the issues or ideas from this ad, where could they go?  Provide links, including to other adwatches on this ad from newspapers or other organizations.


There are many online resources that should help you in doing your adwatch.  Here is a partial listing:


Here is a great resource for how to do an ad watch.  It is intended for journalists.


This is a site put up by PBS on how to “dissect an ad”.  You will want to do something similar.


The 30 second candidate lists some of the “tricks of the trade” and gives examples.


Here is a bibliography of articles about campaign advertising.  You can find the articles through our library in JSTOR or InfoTrac, etc.


The Livingroom Candidate is a site that explores historic campaign commercials and discusses different techniques with examples.


The Columbia Journalism Review has a wonderful website for journalists to use to track down information.  This may be useful for you too.


Also check out Columbia Journalism Review Daily

for updated election and media stories.