Some pundits have claimed that Hillary’s clever phone ad helped her campaign efforts. This may well be the case. However, one interesting fact about the ad is that one of the children, Casey Knowles, portrayed in the commercial is now an Obama supporter.
While this might conjure up visions of a young child holding up a sign scrawled in crayon, Ms. Knowles has served as a campaign volunteer and plans to vote for Obama. This might seem rather odd-after all, the child in the ad was 8 years old. However, the ad was pieced together from stock footage of children and the segment featuring Ms. Knowles is 9 years old. She is 17 now and will be 18 in time for the general election.
The practice of using stock footage and images is a common one. This is why, for example, you often see the same person in the same exact pose selling various products and services for different companies.
This practice does raise some moral questions in terms of honesty. In the case of many ads, including the Hillary ad, the practice seems perfectly acceptable. After all, the ad is aimed at conveying a message and selling a product (in this case, a candidate). Whether the images of actors or not makes no real difference. This is because there is no claim that the images show people who actually support the candidate. The point of the ad is not to establish that the kids shown support Hillary. The point is to scare Americans into voting for Hillary. Whether the use of such tactics is acceptable or not is another matter.
Similarly, using stock footage or images of people in commercials for products is acceptable-provided that it is not claimed or implied that these people use or endorse the product (assuming they do not, of course). After all, in this case the people are functioning as living props or backdrops as opposed to being people who are supposed to be endorsing the product.
There have been examples of companies presenting ads that contain what purport to be “real” people (as opposed to actors or PR folks). One of the best known cases is when Microsoft tried to counter the Mac switching ads by presenting their own switch ad of someone who allegedly switched from a Mac to a PC. It turns out the alleged switcher worked for the PR company hired by Microsoft to create the ad. The phony ad was quickly pulled-and rightfully so.
In the case of Ms. Knowles, the most that can be said is that it is certainly a delightful irony that she is now a devoted supporter of Obama. This is certainly something that can be used to his advantage. In fact, I can picture various clever ads now playing on this interesting turn of events.
I suspect that the candidates will start having their minions investigate stock footage a bit more closely now.