Peer Reviewed





Analysis of the evolution and practice of ad watch journalism during the 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 presidential campaigns suggests a robust level of ad watch activity, fostered in part by advances in communications technology and the proliferation of actors with means and motive. The efforts of ad watch practitioners to police egregious distortions and deceptions continue to provide an important baseline in the broader discourse surrounding the veracity of campaign claims. Efforts to place the transgressions of campaign spots in a proper context, however, have been met with at best, mixed success. Among the principal challenges to building a better ad watch for the 21st century are engaging the way audiovisual elements of ads advance their case by evoking readily accessible narrative frames grounded in popular culture; developing the multiple metrics by which candidates’ fidelity to the truth over time can be effectively evaluated; and addressing arguments about the character of candidates, arguments often ostensibly framed in overtly policy terms.


political advertising, ad watch, audio visual, political communication

Total Pages

60 pages


Copyright © 2012 Glenn W. Richardson, Jr.


An earlier version of this work was presented at the Foundations of Political Myth, Rhetoric and Symbolism Workshop at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 31-September 3, 2006. The author wishes to thank the editor and anonymous Poroi reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments.

Additional Files

CBS News 3.mov (1320 kB)
CBS Evening News 11/6/2000

Really.mov (761 kB)
"Really" political ad

Really Remix 03.mov (221 kB)
"Really" remix

Risk 3.mov (256 kB)
"Risk" political ad

Peace and Security 3.mov (254 kB)
"Peace and Security" ad

Whatever it Takes.mov (611 kB)
"Whatever it Takes" ad

poroi0801-04.htm (153 kB)
HTML version of article