Voices Of Political Ads Share Insight Every campaign cycle, familiar voices come on to radios and televisions: the voices of negativity, the voices of doom. Scott Sanders and Dennis Steele, two of the master voiceover artists of the political world, talk about what's in demand this year.

Voices Of Political Ads Share Insight

Voices Of Political Ads Share Insight

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Every campaign cycle, familiar voices come on to radios and televisions: the voices of negativity, the voices of doom. Scott Sanders and Dennis Steele, two of the master voiceover artists of the political world, talk about what's in demand this year.


Invective, incrimination, innuendo. This is a high season for the negative campaign ad.

Unidentified Man #1: John McCain admits, if the election is about the economy, he's going to lose.

Unidentified Woman: Obama's friendship with terrorist heirs isn't the issue. The issue is Barack Obama's judgment.

Unidentified Man #2: Washington sold them out with the help of politicians like John McCain.

Unidentified Man #3: Barack Obama, more empty words.

BLOCK: Well, it seems a perfect time to talk again with voiceover artists Scott Sanders and Dennis Steele, who do a lot of political attack ads. And guys, I could swear it was only yesterday that we talked. It was actually two years ago, just about this time.

Mr. DENNIS STEELE (Voiceover Artist, Political Ads): That's right.

Mr. SCOTT SANDER (Voiceover Artist, Political Ads): Time flies when you're having really a lot of fun.

BLOCK: And that's Scott Sanders there. And Scott, you are the big cahoona here in the gloom and doom department. You're the hired gun.

Mr. SANDERS: I am. I mean, I do positive ads, but I've done very few this year.

BLOCK: Very few. In fact, we're going to hear you right now this negative ad from John McCain.

Mr. SANDERS: Obama's one accomplishment - legislation to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergarteners. Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama, wrong on education, wrong for your family.

Mr. SANDERS: I don't know. That's pretty scary, man. That makes the hair on my neck stand up. ..TEXT: BLOCK: This ad has become notorious, and it's widely regarded as completely misstating Barack Obama's record. How did you feel about doing that ad?

Mr. SANDERS: You know, you really - I mean, you know, both of us are hired guns, and you have to put it behind you. I mean, you're hired to do a job that's just like you. You've got to put whatever prejudices you have behind you and just go for it.

Mr. STEELE: Nobody ever asks you what your political affiliation is.


Mr. STEELE: They ask how soon can you get here, and you know - and I mean, we get paid to be convincing. We get paid just if we were selling any other product.

BLOCK: Dennis Steele, what are you selling this season? What's your specialty?

Mr. STEELE: I am mostly talking about taxes. It's really all about the economy this year.

Mr. SANDERS: Yeah. In all the spots that I've done this year, I have not mentioned the war once.

Mr. STEELE: Me neither.

Mr. SANDERS: It's a backburner issue.

Mr. STEELE: Yeah.

BLOCK: Let me ask you a little tradecraft question here. Scott, are there words - particular words you're having a special fun with this year?


BLOCK: What?

Mr. SANDERS: The congressional liberals. That's a big thing. Least spots that I've done. But you know.

BLOCK: I know you could do a much dirtier version of liberal than that.

Mr. SANDERS: I can.

BLOCK: Let me hear it.

Mr. SANDERS: 13 trillion in new taxes, all from congressional liberals. Just they're bad people. ..TEXT: BLOCK: You're convincing me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SANDERS: They're bad.

BLOCK: Hey, you know, you're in Philadelphia. I'm here in Washington, so I can't see you, but what's going on with your face right now? Dennis, why don't you describe what Scott's doing with his face when he really sinks down there?

Mr. STEELE: Well, he kind of get squinty, gets a little closer to microphone.

Mr. SANDERS: I tend to use - especially in the spots that I've been doing because they're so intense. I kind of look past the microphone as if there were another person standing right behind it, and I'm in a room of crowded people, and I'm going like this - it's the congressional liberals. I'll have another drink. The congressional liberals.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: I feel like you're inside that microphone right now.

Mr. SANDERS: I have a real problem. You know what I'm saying. So yeah, I tend to - but you know, it depends upon what your copy is.

BLOCK: Yeah, yeah. Let me toss some words by you and see how nasty you can make them sound, OK? Both of you.

Mr. SANDERS: Sure.

BLOCK: Socialist.

Mr. SANDERS: He is a socialist.

BLOCK: Great.

Mr. SANDERS: A socialist is not good.

BLOCK: OK. How about - we've heard this one, too. How about erratic? Dennis?

Mr. STEELE: Yeah, we said that a few times. What is he talking about? He is erratic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: All right, let's try more of the same.

Mr. STEELE: Too many taxes, too many promises, more of the same.

Mr. SANDERS: Yeah. Wow! I believe I said that this morning.

BLOCK: Do you guys get tired of negative ads? Do you get tired of doing them?


BLOCK: Scott, you do?

Mr. STEELE: No, I don't. No, because I have two kids in college. I mean, I'll be honest.

BLOCK: Yeah.

Mr. STEELE: Plus, I mean, I hate to sound high-minded because I don't do this for this reason, but it is a part of the democratic process. People go on the air, and they try to convince people to vote a certain way, and that's the way we run our system of government.

Mr. SANDERS: The other thing is, I'm not - you know, I can do positive ads. I've done thousands. But, you know, I mean, I think you're wired a certain way, and I think, if you put my positives against my negatives, well you'll hear the positive, and you'll say, yeah, that's a good spot. And then you hear the negative and say, oh, that's a great spot. ..TEXT: BLOCK: But you said you do get tired of them.

Mr. SANDERS: Yeah. It would be nice to lighten up a tad.

BLOCK: Well, Scott Sanders and Dennis Steele, maybe we'll chatting again about all this two years from now, I think, next election cycle.

Mr. SANDERS: Maybe, hopefully.

Mr. STEELE: Yeah.

BLOCK: Thanks so much.

Mr. SANDERS: Thank you.

Mr. STEELE: Thank you.

BLOCK: Voiceover artists Dennis Steele and Scott Sanders, who wants us to know...

Mr. SANDERS: You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News.

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