With the 2012 presidential race officially underway, we thought we’d get a perspective from the front lines.
ProComm voice talent Bob Jump has carved out a niche in national political advertising. We asked him to share his perspective and experiences from past campaigns.
Q: How has this presidential election season been different so far?
A: Well, let’s see. You’ve got one candidate who called another candidate a liar. Next you’ve got a presidential candidate being endorsed by an ’08 candidate who lost the election. We’ve seen video moments where two out of the seven in the primary couldn’t contain their tears. And … there’s money. Huntsman spent about a nickel and Perry spent $480 per vote in Iowa. So, yeah … everything’s pretty much on par. Different personalities but the feeling is like, this may already be a done deal.
Q: With the record early number of caucuses and primaries, what do you think will be the “peak” time for political advertising this year?
A: I don’t know. But I do know that if you live in South Carolina it might be time to take that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. If you think Iowa was crazy with TV ads, wait till you see what happens in that “make it or break it” state of South Carolina. And you can bet most all of the ads will be negative / attack, too. This is going to be harsh… and they haven’t even started skewering President Obama!
Q: Do you pick the candidate and/or party, or do they pick you? How does it affect your work with other candidates?
A: As a voiceover, I’ve always said you pick your party, not your candidate. Years ago, I had a choice to make and I went with the Republicans. Some voiceovers work both sides. But certain political consultants view them as “guns for hire” and it can become an issue of party loyalty which may concern them. They also worry whether that voice may be on a competitor’s ad and that, of course, is a big no-no. By not working both parties you’re giving up two sources of income. But, you’re also known as the “go-to” guy of the GOP. They know I’m strictly in their corner when they need me; it’s an added value.
Q: Is that how you came to do work for Rick Perry?
A: I’d like to think so. When they do call you, two things immediately come to mind: Will they have you continue with the entire campaign or is this a one-shot? The other is, are you going to get along with that political consultant and that team? I’ve had as many as eight people that are all a part of the session. They might pull you in eight different directions. I try and decide just who it is I want to please the most.
Here’s one of the spots Bob recently recorded for the Perry Campaign.
Q: When you talk about 24/7 availability for political work, is that to be taken literally?
A: Yes, literally. During the peak of the political season, a voiceover is like a doctor on-call. It can be 10 or 11 at night and that phone will ring. You drop what you’re doing and hit the mic. Weekends are no different than weekdays. One Sunday I had eight sessions! Did I complain? I don’t think so.
Q: Are you asked to adopt regional styles, or do they just want your “signature” voice?
A: Good question. Yes. For example, if it’s something airing way down south, I’ve been asked to dump the “ing” off some words. In Texas, I’ve been asked to give it a bit of a “drawl.” In North Dakota, they’ve asked for a “rural” sound as in: “talk to me like a cattle rancher, Bob.” So, yes … you learn to adapt to the group you’re targeting. And you adapt quickly or you don’t get asked back.
Q: Have you seen an increase in messages that are exclusively for the web, as opposed to TV spots with shared web exposure?
A: Yes, and every year it continues to climb. One reason is you can get an ad up on the internet so quickly these days. Richard Blumenthal was in a tight race with WWE’s Linda McMahon in Connecticut. He was going to speak at a noon fundraiser. Timed to create some mischief, as well as throw him off just before the fundraiser, the McMahon team created a web/ TV ad (below) about his record serving in Vietnam. They called at 7 that morning and the ad was up by 10. Super fast. It went viral, it worked and it was embarrassing. All the new media choices give us an amazing ability in terms of speed, but they won’t replace traditional media any time soon – if ever.
Q: Do you meet any of your candidates face to face?
A: The closest I’ve come to a political “one on one” was a special White House party for Marvin Bush. I wasn’t there but my voice was. It was a roast and I was the guy with the humorous jabs starting from his childhood. The fella that had me voice it was sitting right next to Barbara Bush that night. When my narration was over, Mrs. Bush turned to him and asked, “Was that Walter Cronkite?” My highest praise ever!