TASK: The Candidates' Secret Playbook

In this task, you will analyze the candidate’s ‘secret playbook’, that is, the techniques of storytelling they use to create a certain image of themselves and their opponent.


The candidates' secret playbook     

In order for campaign commercials to be effective, they need to follow a carefully crafted narrative structure. In other words, storytelling, for example the way arguments are presented or a candidate’s biography is told, makes campaigns effective.


a. What's in the candidates' secret playbook?

Watch the video “How to win an election” by the NYTimes. Marc McKinnon, a former campaign strategist for both election campaigns of George W. Bush, talks about the power of storytelling in running successful political campaigns. Take notes on the following questions:

   Guiding questions
  • What are the vital components of a political campaign, according to Mr. McKinnon?
  • What does he mean by “narrative architecture”? More specifically, what does he mean by threat, fear, opportunity, hope, villain, resolution, hero, victim?
  • “There is no question that people can be seduced by a story.” (7:22) – What does this mean for political campaigns? Do you agree with this statement? Discuss.


b. Identifying an ad's narrative architecture

Select two commercials from the previous activity (TASK: Campaign Ads) – one by Trump and one by Clinton. Can you identify a 'narrative architecture' in these commercials? Can you identify the motives of threat, fear, opportunity, hope, villain, resolution, hero, and victim?

You can share your analysis in the database Learner Texts.