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Republicans and Democrats Could Learn a Lot From This Voting Ad

On Tuesday, the non-partisan youth political engagement group Rock the Vote released a video encouraging voters to make it to the polls November 4. The video appropriates the DJ Snake and Lil Jon hit song “Turn Down for What” that shook plenty of dorm rooms this past year to promote the message “Turn Out for What.” It’s star-studded—with Lil Jon, Lena Dunham, and Fred Armisen, among others—funny, and catchy.

What’s most striking about the ad is how fresh it feels amid the slog of pre-midterm ads aimed at female millennial voters. Compare “Turn Down for What” to the new College Republican National Committee ads that liken voting to “Say Yes to the Dress” (the Republican candidate is a “trusted brand” dress) or Americans for Shared Prosperity’s “Dating Profile” ad, which showed a woman complaining about her unreliable boyfriend, Barack. The Republican ads address women by trying to appeal to things that are tagged as feminine—dresses, shopping, marriage, dating, complaining. Nor are Democrats completely immune from making this mistake. In 2012, an ad posted by the Obama campaign featured Lena Dunham comparing voting for Obama to losing her virginity to a nice guy. Rock the Vote, on the other hand, outdoes both parties by avoiding pointedly feminine themes.  

“Turn Down for What” also shames the recent GOP ads by addressing issues that voters care about. Since it’s hard to make too many substantive policy points while using metaphors about boyfriends and dresses, the Republican ads have mostly relied on the trope that Democrats are fiscally irresponsible. The “Dating Profile” ad perhaps came closest to addressing real issues when the female narrator complained that “Barack” spied on her text messages. Meanwhile, the Rock the Vote ad features a variety of policy-related reasons why celebrities are going to the polls—from prison reform to reproductive rights to pot legalization. There is a way to connect with youth and female demographics, even if it takes some star power.