The Harkin Ad Campaign

Harkin's ads made heavy use of the candidate speaking, either to an audience or to the camera.  Media consultant Ken Swope notes that Harkin is "dynamite on the platform," and he sought to use this strength to full advantage. (Compare the Tsongas spots.  Tsongas, a far less telegenic candidate, is rarely shown speaking).  The Harkin ads were geared toward blue-collar, working class people; many have the tag "Build a New America."

The "factory spots" accounted for about 75 percent of Harkin's media buys, and were among the most visually interesting and moving of the campaign.  Ken Swope notes that he had "complete strategic and artistic control" over these.  Swope stated, "I directed the production and did the editing from beginning to end.  These spots are among the best I've done and come closest to my idea of effective political advertising." 

Swope and his cameraman first searched for an empty factory with good lighting.  They found an abandoned textile factory that had been used more recently for a number of other enterprises and set up a platform to take advantage of the light coming from the windows.  One 35-mm film camera was mounted on a dolly on a track behind the crowd, facing Harkin; another 35-mm camera was placed on a dolly and crane to the right.  Two roving 16-mm cameras provided more grainy footage.  The shoot took all day and cost about $55,000. 

Footage included Harkin walking in and greeting people, about two hours of Harkin speaking on the platform, another hour and a half of Harkin taking Q&A, and a two-camera interview near a window.  The interview had been planned to take place around sunset with some beautiful lighting but a delayed start cost this effect.  Interview footage was used in "Builder" and "Reaganomics;" the more interesting images appear in "Echoes," "Beating Republicans," "China,""We the People," and "Hunger."

Unfortunately, the ads aired as the Gennifer Flowers scandal broke and were buried in the media flurry.  Thereafter, Swope had less control; some of the later ads were even written and filmed without his knowledge.

Spots 1 through 8 by Ken Swope:

"Work"  (NH, Jan. 16, 1992) >
"Builder"  (NH, Jan. 16, 1992)
"Echoes"  (NH, Jan. 22, 1992) >
"Reaganomics"  (Jan. 24, 1992)
"Beating Republicans"  (Jan. 24, 1992) >
"China"  (NH, Feb. 7, 1992)
"We the People"  (Feb. 20, 1992)
"Hunger"  (Feb. 21, 1992)

"Danette"  (NH, Feb. 3, 1992) >
"Biography"  (NH, Feb. 6, 1992)
"Sister"  (NH and Boston, Feb. 11, 1992)
"Bio-SD"  (SD, week of Feb. 12, 1992)
"Trickle Down"  (NH and Boston, Feb. 13, 1992) >
"Frank (a)"  (Feb. 12, 1992)
"Frank (b)"  (Feb. 12, 1992)
"Farm"  (SD, Feb. 19, 1992)
"Record"  (SD, Feb. 20, 1992)

Radio spots from NH:
"Big Changes"
"Percolate Up"

Also campaign video:
6m49s (Nov. 8, 1991)