Ads Get Creative, Even Seductive, To Attract Voters Voting might not be the sexiest thing in the world, but at least one ad campaign encouraging Americans to register is pretty provocative.
NPR logo

Ads Get Creative, Even Seductive, To Attract Voters

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Ads Get Creative, Even Seductive, To Attract Voters

Ads Get Creative, Even Seductive, To Attract Voters

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Since the upcoming elections are midterms, voter turnout is a big issue. This year some groups are taking a page from the playbook of "Mad Men's" Don Draper to get voters to the polls. NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: Who knew that voting could be this much fun?


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Hey, you. This is Doris and her friend Betty. They've been waiting all day for you.

FESSLER: Now, you need to know here, in this ad, Doris is about 60, 70 years old, short, gray hair, glasses, and Betty has long, gray hair, which she pats seductively as she winks at two young men peeking through the door. You get the picture.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's probably your first time. They wonder if you have your V-card.

FESSLER: The men hesitate for a few seconds until Betty suggestively gestures with her forefinger to come on in.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: So go ahead - vote. Take advantage of Illinois's new online voter registration, and get your voter ID card.

BERNARD CHERKASOV: There is a double entendre, and I think it's very effective at catching people's attention.

FESSLER: Bernard Cherkasov runs Equality Illinois, a gay rights group, that produced the ad, as well as one in 2010 called "Vote Naked Illinois," which as you can imagine also got attention. He says they're targeting young people disengaged from politics who might not bother to register.

CHERKASOV: To tell them this is a cool thing to do; it's super easy to do. And then once we've got their attention and they're registered, then we can, you know, help them get educated as to what's at stake in this election, how they can exercise that democratic right.

FESSLER: So far the ad has received more than 10,000 views online, not bad, but nothing compared to a voter registration ad from the National Rifle Association. It begins with a boy sitting on a bed as his father carefully removes a small box from the closet.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Remember, this isn't a toy.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is serious business.

FESSLER: The father sits down next to his son before he slowly unlocks the box.


UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Why do you have it?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, it's important that I protect our family and our rights.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Does everyone have one?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No. But they should.

FESSLER: When he opens the box, there's no gun inside, but a voter registration card.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I'm really proud of you, dad.

FESSLER: The ad is part of an NRA campaign called Trigger the Vote. Spokesperson Jennifer Baker says several million people have seen the ad online and on TV. She says 35 million gun owners aren't registered to vote.

JENNIFER BAKER: This ad, we thought, was a provocative way to get people's attention and remind them that in order to ensure that their Second Amendment rights are protected, they have to vote.

FESSLER: Although it's difficult to know how well such ads work.

RICK LOOSER: You're competing with so many messages. It's hard to break through the clutter.

FESSLER: Rick Looser runs the Cirlot Agency, a Mississippi advertising firm. His challenge this year was creating an ad to explain the state's new voter ID law.

LOOSER: We didn't want this to look like a political ad, and we didn't want it to look like we were selling furniture. We wanted it to be something that was memorable.

FESSLER: So they played off this memorable scene from the movie "Forrest Gump."


MYKELTI WILLIAMSON: (As Bubba Blue) Shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo.

FESSLER: To list all the things voters could use to get a free voter ID card.


DELBERT HOSEMANN: Well, you can bring your Social Security card, your birth certificate, your Medicare-Medicaid card.

FESSLER: In the ad, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann can be seen following a voter from a town hall meeting, down the hall, to the bus stop, into a diner.


HOSEMANN: A 10-year-old driver's license, a paycheck stub, a government check stub.

FESSLER: The ad won two top advertising awards - the Tellys. Looser says more importantly, almost every primary voter in June had the right ID, a sign, he thinks, that such ads do matter. Pam Fessler, NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.