Hillary Clinton finally announced her candidacy for the 2016 election this past Sunday. After over two years of endless speculation by reporters and politicos alike, the former Secretary of State released a roughly two minute video — entitled “Getting Started” — on social media declaring her intention to seek the presidency. While the announcement surprised no one, the video made waves in the media for its uniqueness and un-Clinton like feel. It has redefined campaign announcements and advertisements and defied decades of political strategy.
To understand just how radical this campaign trailer is, compare it to Clinton’s announcement video from the 2008 campaign:
It’s terrible, right? The camera moves back and forth. There are no appealing visuals or an upbeat background soundtrack. The colors are bland and Clinton seems fake and scripted.
Being a politics aficionado (and a former film producing major), I have to say this is one of the more fascinating pieces of political advertising I have seen. The first clips in “Getting Started” aren’t anything one would associate with modern campaign imagery. There are no commanding rallies, singular speeches by the candidate, visuals depicting he or she as a leader, or lists of accomplishments. Instead, Clinton removed herself almost entirely and focused on everyday people going about their lives.
In “Media Politics: A Citizen’s Guide,” Shanto Iyengar and Jennifer A. McGrady write that “candidates are primarily interested in reaching voters whose preferences may be pivotal to the outcome of the race.” The choice of who to feature in the ad was not an accident by any means, but a carefully selected diverse collection of Americans explaining what they are getting ready to accomplish over the next year. Among those featured: two Hispanic brothers, an African American couple, a gay couple, an older white woman, and an Asian-American college student. This collection of voters represents key voting blocs for Clinton that will be critical for her to appeal to and carry in the general election.
Iyengar and McGrady argue that presidential candidates introduce themselves to the electorate by using biographical spots. These ads highlight their personal background and public service. However, Clinton can get away with not doing one of these. She has spent more than 30 years in the public eye as a first lady, senator and secretary of State, and her life has been scrutinized, investigated and dissected every way imaginable. According to a recent Huffington Post poll, less than 3% of Americans say they haven’t heard enough about Hillary Clinton to have an opinion about her. She used her announcement video to set a theme and tone for her campaign, rather than introduce herself.
The video ignores the roles that have made Clinton a presidential contender. It doesn’t mention her two terms as a U.S. Senator from New York or her four years as secretary of State. There’s no sign of her husband, Bill Clinton, or even an allusion to her granddaughter, Charlotte, who has become a staple of her speeches. Instead, she casts herself as a “champion” of working families who have come through tough economic times but still see the deck stacked against them in favor of the powerful and privileged.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign announcement video goes against years of traditional political theory and campaign strategy. By taking herself out of the video and focusing on Americans from all walks of life, Clinton sends a message to voters: It’s about you, not me. While this is a very well-done and sophisticated piece of filmmaking, now comes the ultimate test: will this be enough for her to resonate with voters?