Although this book does not pursue a social sciences informed take on meaning-making in campaign commercials, Trent and Friedenberg’s (1991) differentiation of incumbent and challenger strategies provides a suitable starting point for the following two analyses. The campaign commercials in question are from the two major political opponents of the parties of Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel: the Polish Law and Justice party [Prawa i Sprawiedliwość] (PiS) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany [Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands] (SPD), who were promoting their respective candidates Jarosław Kaczyński and Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the 2011 and 2009 parliamentary elections. This provides insight into what kind of political counter offer is provided by the candidates challenging the incumbents Tusk and Merkel. Subscribing to Holtz-Bacha’s account of campaign commercials as part of “interpretational culture” [Deutungskultur] (see Rohe 1987) that provide subjective, cognitive, affective, and evaluative orientation towards political phenomena for the members of a political system (Holtz-Bacha 2000, 16), the contrasting juxtaposition of incumbent and challenger TV campaign ads allows for comparing different foci, meanings, and images among the candidates in the context of the respective elections. The comparison of the challenger campaign commercials also sheds light on potential recurring motives or topics in their particular audiovisual composition within a situated media context. As such, it aims to contribute to a more detailed and nuanced view of the category of challenger strategies (see Trent and Friedenberg 1991).
As opposed to the two analyses of the CDU and the PO campaign commercial, this chapter is from the beginning comparatively oriented. It will start by providing introductory information on the respective election campaign of the two parties PiS and SPD in the context of the elections of 2011 and 2009. As will be shown, on that basis alone remarkable differences become apparent. In the next step the two campaign commercials will also be reflected in their content-related and thematic outline. In this respect, some aspects that, according to Trent and Friedenberg, are characteristic for challenger strategies will be addressed in order to take them up and illustrate them in their specific and divergent form and integration into the respective audiovisual composition.
The focus and main objective of the analyses of the PiS and the SPD campaign commercial (both of which will be presented within a separate section) is on the particular interplay of the two dimensions of audiovisual figurativity and what kind of image of the candidates it brings forward. For that reason, the structure of the analyses does not necessarily follow the one taken in the analyses of the CDU and the PO TV campaign ad. Rather, the main purpose is to take the particular interplay of the two dimensions optimally into account and thus to start from the dimension that makes significant contributions to the emergence and orchestration of figurative meaning in the respective campaign commercial. This is concomitant with the dynamic approach to audiovisual figurative meaning-making to stay as close to the material as possible in order to consider its specificity and respective dynamics also methodologically instead of working through all objects of investigation in a standard order (cf. also Müller and Kappelhoff 2018). After their analysis within separate sections, the PiS and the SPD campaign commercial are brought together and discussed with regard to their emergent figurative meaning and the respective interplay of the two dimensions. In this respect, they will additionally be juxtaposed with the CDU and the PO campaign commercial in order to arrive at a comprehensive picture of all emergent figurative meanings and candidate images.
Both the Polish PiS party and the German SPD had very different initial conditions for the elections in question. The PiS party was in the opposition during the preceding legislative term and thus promoted itself as a counter proposition and alternative to the ruling Civic Platform (PO). The SPD, on the other hand, was in the difficult position of having been part of the grand coalition together with its opponent, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). For that reason, an explicit attack on and negative campaigning against its coalition partner was problematic insofar as in so doing, the SPD would have compromised itself and furthermore risked the chance of continuing the coalition in case of missing the outright majority. These aspects are reflected in the style and contents of both parties’ election campaigns and in the contrasting presentation of their candidates, also in the campaign commercials to be analyzed. It is, therefore, worthwhile to start from those contextual factors before coming to the question of audiovisual figurative meaning-making in the particular case of the two selected TV campaign ads.
The PiS party’s candidate Jarosław Kaczyński was Donald Tusk’s predecessor as prime minister from 2005 to 2007. However, its majority government together with the Self Defence of the Republic of Poland party [Samoobrona Rzeczpospolitej Polski] and the League of Polish Families party [Liga Polskich Rodzin] collapsed prematurely. Therefore, snap elections became necessary in 2007 from which the PO came out as winner. As Szczerbiak (2013) argues, many voters of the PO at the elections in 2007 and 2011 were primarily motivated by fear of the PiS party’s return to power. In order to improve its chances and image with the voters, the PiS party was “running a ‘softer and gentler’ campaign aimed at de-mobilising those Civic Platform voters who were motivated primarily by fear of Mr Kaczyński” (Szczerbiak 2013, 487). As candidate and party leader, Kaczyński had primarily attracted attention through his confrontational style and rather aggressive rhetoric (Kolczyński 2012, Szczerbiak 2013, Szułdrzyński 2011), wherefore the PiS party “attempted to construct a broader appeal” by focusing on social and economic topics with regard to Poland’s future (Szczerbiak 2013, 487).
Its election campaign was highly praised in the national media: in the Newsweek’s interview with Anna Materska-Sosnowska from the Institute of Political Science at the University of Warsaw, she stressed the coherence of the party’s campaign in general and the image of Kaczyński as a trustworthy head of the party in particular (Józefowicz 2011). The journalist Michał Szułdrzyński (2011) came to a similar conclusion: according to him, the PiS party was eager about evoking positive emotions on the part of the voters by focusing on aspirations and ambitions of the people instead of scaring them with negative campaigning. As opposed to previous election campaigns, the PiS omitted offensive attacks on its political competitor PO and made the future of Poland its central topic (“Poland deserves more” [Polska zasługuje na więcej]).
Mr Kaczyński’s party seized on the fact that many Poles felt that, even taking the economic crisis into account, Mr Tusk’s government had not delivered the increase in opportunities that it had promised in 2007, a message exemplified by its main campaign slogan ‘Poland Deserves More’. […] Interestingly, Law and Justice also made a particularly strong pitch to younger voters, who were crucial in getting Civic Platform elected in 2007. Law and Justice correctly identified a ‘glass ceiling’ that many young Poles, especially those from smaller towns and rural areas, felt that they encountered and the fact that, in spite of economic growth, Poland still had high levels of youth unemployment and even many of those who managed to get a job struggled to obtain (much less pay) mortgages and support their families. (Szczerbiak 2013, 488)
A similar attempt to improve the image of the PiS party and an appeal to centrist voters was already made during the presidential elections in 2010 (Kolczyński 2012, 42) with the result that two rounds of voting were necessary, the second of which Kaczyński lost but with 47% of the votes (Szczerbiak 2013, 485). Building off this impact, the PiS complemented its focus on social and economic topics relevant for the average and young voters with a modern, progressive, and reliable image of its leader, Jarosław Kaczyński. In this respect, especially two moves are noteworthy: the publication of Kaczyński’s book The Poland of Our Dreams [Polska naszych marzeń] (2011) and the premiere of the film leader (Lider, 2011). In the book, Kaczyński explained his opinion about the contemporary Poland and criticized the government for missing action with regard to current urgent problems (Jakubowski 2013, 35). The film, called the longest campaign commercial of the entire election campaign, was presented in a cinema and declared to have nothing to do with the PiS party’s election campaign (Ostaszewski 2011). It lasted 24 minutes and staged the political story of Kaczyński in a pathetic style (Leszczuk-Fiedziukiewicz 2013, 94); however, there is doubt about its claimed informative nature (see Kolczyński 2012, Ostaszewski 2011).
The campaign commercial chcemy polski równych szans (“We want a Poland of equal chances”, advertising ageny Panplan) to be analzed is a similar case. It was released by the PiS more than one month before the elections took place (July 18, 2011) and was said to serve informational instead of canvassing purposes (“Tylko Kaczyński może otworzyć,” 2011). With regard to its content, the chief of the election staff, Tomasz Poręba, explained that the 30-second-long video clip served as a starting point for the second part of the party’s election campaign which aimed at the presentation of visions of a Poland of equal chances (“Tylko Kaczyński może otworzyć,” 2011). According to Kolczyński (2012, 49), it is the best of the entire election campaign due to a dynamic presentation of and dealing with the topic of removing social barriers that have hindered Poles’ chances and aspirations (“Tylko Kaczyński może otworzyć,” 2011).
The campaign commercial starts by showing a group of various people heading for a modern glass building. When they get there, they stop in front of what is now shown to be closed doors. Inside the building, their backs to the front doors, a group of men formally dressed in suits sit together and talk, obviously ignoring the excluded. Two similarly dressed men arrive outside behind the group of the excluded and enter the building unnoticed through the back door, passing by the people outside as if they were not there. The scenario is interrupted by a faded-in slogan in red and blue letters, reading: “We want a Poland of equal chances” [Chcemy Polski równych szans].108 Suddenly, Jarosław Kaczyński appears outside in front of the doors, energetically slides it open, and enters the building together with those previously excluded. The campaign commercial ends with the PiS party’s logo and slogan “Time for courageous decisions” [Czas na odważne decyzje]. According to Poręba, it aims to deal with the educational and legal discrimination of the Poles by the current government and to point out that the PiS is the only party that wants to open these symbolic glass doors hindering their energy, enthusiasm, and potential (“Tylko Kaczyński może otworzyć,” 2011).
As opposed to such an obvious and explicit message with regard to the political opponent, the 2009 German federal election campaign has been declared the “most silent promotional event since the invention of letterpress” (Brauck and Müller 2009). According to Brauck and Müller, the election campaign was characterized by a fundamental lack of content and controversies; a fact that is especially reflected in the strong concentration on the candidates of the two major competing parties CDU and SPD. Both were grand coalition partners in the government for the legislative period from 2005 to 2009, in whose course the CDU was said to have adopted many topics of the SPD that had in turn lost its political profile (see, e.g., Casdorff 2009). Moreover, the collaborative government work was neither suitable as a target for criticism, nor for self-promotion. The prevailing lack of criticism during the federal election campaign is nevertheless remarkable because during the European election campaign some months earlier, the SPD had tried to attack the CDU and other opposing parties (Brauck and Müller 2009).109
In contrast, the SPD campaign commercial for the German parliamentary elections makes no mention of other parties or competitors and exclusively focuses on the chancellor candidate, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and his programmatic issues. This concerns first of all his so-called Germany plan [Deutschlandplan], a long-term employment scheme, by which he presented his policy for the next decade. One of his aims was to achieve full employment by 2020 through the creation of four million jobs. However, the presentation of the plan on September 3, 2009 was a failure as the online magazine Spiegel Online disclosed details and major contents two days before the official presentation (Werner 2011, 43). The opposition thus had the opportunity to criticize the plan before it was completely and officially introduced; a setback that, as Werner (2011, 44) argues, the subsequent favorable coverage110 could not change.
For the parliamentary election campaign, the SPD was supported by the advertising agency Butter from Düsseldorf (Rottbeck 2012, 177), which was already responsible for the party’s 2005 parliamentary election campaign and the preceding 2009 European election campaign. Under the slogan “Our country is capable of more” [Unser Land kann mehr] the agency produced a campaign commercial that makes the Germany plan its central and explicit topic and the (metonymical) flagship of the candidate Steinmeier who nearly disappears behind it.
The strong focus on and prominent promotion of the plan and Steinmeier makes the campaign commercial appear very much like an advertising spot presenting a product or a brand. A major reason for this impression is their recurrent explicit mention through a female voice-over that frames the campaign commercial, taking it from an initial introduction of the Germany plan and its potential to the explicit final request of voting for the SPD. Furthermore, the candidate’s continuous direct appeal to the viewer (both verbally and visually by addressing the camera) evokes the impression of a traditional promotional event that straightforwardly and explicitly praises its product and tries to persuade the spectator to buy it.111 Compared with the other campaign commercials, the SPD TV campaign ad thus addresses the viewer in the most proactive and explicit manner; thereby displaying the most noticeable direct effort to make its message clear and understood. However, Steinmeier only marginally promotes himself, instead promoting his Germany plan and the SPD’s program.112 The campaign commercial thus argues over its entire course with a clear will to convince, which remained subtle(r) in the other campaign commercials.
The 90-second-long TV campaign ad starts with three existential questions: “How do we want to live and work?” [Wie wollen wir leben und arbeiten?], “How do we close the gap] between rich and poor?” [Wie schließen wir die Schere zwischen Arm und Reich?], and “How do we create and ensure work?” [Wie schaffen und sichern wir Arbeit?]. These questions appear and dissapear as written text that comes continuously nearer and are additionally expressed verbally by the female voice-over. Immediately afterwards, this voice gives the answer to these initial questions: “Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s Germany plan opens up a new perspective for our country” [Frank-Walter Steinmeiers Deutschlandplan eröffnet unserem Land eine neue Perspektive]. Simultaneously, different shots of Steinmeier are shown, mostly surrounded by or speaking in front of people.113 Subsequently, various newspaper quotations, all of them positive reactions to the plan, are faded in.114 This way, Steinmeier’s plan is explicitly proclaimed and approved as the adequate answer to the initial questions. In the following, the candidate himself faces the camera and addresses the spectator directly, explicitly arguing the case for his plan and the feasibility of its goals that are metonymically depicted through audiovisual illustrations. Steinmeier ends his argument by assuring that he believes in Germany’s capability to achieve these goals and that he is willing to work hard for them. Together with a final image of Steinmeier and his wife waving their hands to their supporters, the female voice-over ends the campaign commercial by saying: “On September 27: SPD. Our country is capable of more” [Am 27. September: SPD. Unser Land kann mehr].
The campaign and political position of the two parties in the context of the 2011 and 2009 parliamentary elections display fundamental differences that are reflected in the content and thematic focus of the PiS and SPD campaign commercial. While the PiS concentrates on social and political aspects of ordinary citizens, such as the equality of opportunities and participation, and tries to establish the image of a qualified party leader, the SPD aims at an accentuated factual presentation of its program in order to convince by means of its content. In so doing, however, it is not able to create a vital image of its candidate. The following analysis illustrates in more detail how these contrasting conceptualizations in the two campaign commercials come about: they are due to fundamental differences in the respective interplay of the two dimensions of audiovisual figurative meaning-making. The Polish PiS party’s campaign commercial gets along nearly without language, but predominantly brings about figurative meaning through audiovisual images in terms of “represented (i.e. depicted, in German ‘dargestellt’) visible or audible elements” (Schmitt 2015, 314) and cinematic expressive movement. It is only at a certain point that it is additionally made explicit through faded-in written language. Compared with this, the German SPD’s campaign commercial is clearly led by language and complemented by single audiovisual illustrations. These, however, do not compose to a distinctive cinematic expressive movement corresponding to or complementing the verbally expressed figurative meaning, wherefore no consistent image of the candidate Steinmeier emerges.
The PiS campaign commercial unfolds an emergent metaphorical meaning that is very similar to the CDU campaign commercial. It is the prominently staged separation of an outside and an inside between which a transparent pane of glass marks the border. Whereas it serves in the latter case to stress both the border and the difference in status as well as the omnipresence of the powerful sovereign Merkel, the glass facade in the PiS campaign commercial predominantly highlights separation, insuperability, and ignorance of the people who are inside and excluding others. Hence, although both campaign commercials use more or less the same experiential realm, the concrete emergent figurative meanings differ fundamentally: they display contrasting perspectives on the issue and thus give rise to dissimilar conceptualizations in their respective situated context. This again confirms the necessity of analyzing (audiovisual) figurative meaning in-depth in its particular context of use by staying as close to the material as possible in order to take account of such shades of meaning.
In the PiS party’s campaign commercial, the glass facade strengthens the prominently staged opposition between the presented two groups of people and plays a central role for the overall figurative theme. These two groups are evidently the one that strides up to the modern glass building and is involuntarily stopped by its closed doors and the one that is sitting inside the building with their back to the people outside, entering stealthily through the back door and then walking past the row of excluded while pretending not to see them. With recourse to the remarks of the chief of the PiS party’s election staff, Tomasz Poręba, that the campaign commercial aims to depict the discrimination of the Poles by the current government, the people who are shown evidently embody these actors.
Although their recognition and classification as such on the basis of Poręba’s remarks appears to be self-evident, it is nevertheless also due to their particular audiovisual staging which moreover contributes significantly to their contrastive conceptualization. The perceived sharp contrast between the ordinary citizens outside and the business-like politicians inside is an outcome of metonymical profiling through audiovisual representation. For instance, the group outside distinguishes itself from the group inside by an observable difference and heterogeneity in age, clothing, and gender: younger and older people, casually and formally dressed, men and women. In contrast, the people inside are similarly dressed in a business style, are middle-aged, and exclusively men. The campaign commercial stages these two outwardly dissimilar groups audiovisually with specific experiences: the first group with quick and straightforward movement and being outside and excluded, the second group with immobility or little movement and being inside, excluding the outside.
This is primarily evoked by camera movement and visual composition that provide a clear-cut structure and division of the audiovisual image into a foreground and background as well as contrasting arrangements of visual elements and lines of gaze. For instance, the straightforward line of gaze of the excluded (to the camera) intersects with the sideward gaze of the people inside (i.e., the men sitting in armchairs and those walking past the glass facade). The arrangement of the two men in the armchairs who form a circle that is closed to the row of people outside concretizes this division of inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion. Moreover, the foreground that mainly amounts to the inside perspective is in sharp focus (e.g., the men in the armchairs), while the background that mainly amounts to the outside perspective is blurred (i.e., the excluded people standing in a row behind the glass facade). This clear-cut division is also highlighted through focus shifts from a sharp foreground to a sharp background (e.g., from the excluded in the foreground to insiders arriving unnoticed behind them), between which the glass facade functions as a kind of horizontal split and transition from the foreground to the background. The camera movement contrasts and highlights the respective movement qualities of the two groups and thus contributes to their contrasting perception: from tracking the quick and straightforward movement of the outsiders that is being stopped through the glass facade to a montage of medium-close shots and close-ups of puzzled faces in shallow focus. This fragmentation of the group to individuals who appear as a variation of the flat group formation unable to move along in front of the building gives rise to a feeling of being stopped and excluded. In contrast, the rather static quality of the circular formations of the men in suits inside is intensified through a static camera, and the dynamic parallel camera movement accompanying the walk of the two men past the row of the excluded increases the contrast between (moving) inside and (static) outside.
The outlined tension between inside and outside is furthermore strengthened through the underlying music that unfolds a powerful dynamic rhythm that presses forward. Its intensity and dynamics is withheld (primarily by omitting the drums) at the moment when the group outside is stopped in its straightforward movement, however, the rhythm that presses forward persists (through the electric guitar) in a kind of loop that waits for its final release. This way, a feeling of tension and suspense is evoked that corresponds to and complements the contrasting dynamics between inside and outside through camera movement and visual composition. The scenario is interrupted by the faded-in slogan in red and blue letters against a white background: “We want a Poland of equal chances” [Chcemy Polski równych szans]. With the following shot, the tension and contrasting dynamics dissolve. The PiS party’s candidate Kaczyński is shown among the excluded people, energetically drawing back the glass doors of the building and granting the group its previously refused access. The people are shown streaming into the interior, the lobby, and offices where they are walking around and talking with each other (Kaczyński among them).
Apart from the cognitive processing and understanding that the drawing back of the glass doors provides access to the beforehand excluded, it is also the experience of a release of the previously unfolded tension and contrastive dynamics that contributes to this understanding. This becomes most tangible in the music. It comes in more intensely than before with high-pitched tones and a faster rhythm (with the drums coming in again) that is steadily pressing forward. Likewise, the dynamic and straightforward movement of the people starts again and is shown as slightly more energetic than before through a smoothly tracking camera and an opening of spatial depth. The latter equally resolves the previously prevailing tension of contrasting visual axes and elements by staging a well-balanced and harmonious half-round. Thereby, the audiovisual staging evokes an experience of balance, cohesion, and powerful dynamics. At the very end, Kaczyński is shown in a close-up, next to him the words “Premier Jarosław Kaczyński” and below the slogan “Time for courageous decisions” [Czas na odważne decyzje] that is expressed verbally as well.
In summary, visual composition, camera movement, and sound design merge into a movement pattern that brings about an experience of progress, balance, and cohesion (even intensified through the unfolded tension in the first half). This movement pattern amounts to one cinematic expressive movement unit (emu) that encompasses the whole TV campaign ad (Figure 13).
Admittedly, the question of whether the PiS campaign commercial consists of one or two emus is difficult to answer in this particular case. On the one hand, it prominently bears analogy to the CDU campaign commercial with its two emus between which a closure of its qualitative duration is perceptible (the transition from Merkel’s recollection to the action image). The PiS campaign commercial also displays a kind of dichotomy between its first and second part that is discernable in terms of different sensations: initially tension and unevenness and then release, balance, and cohesion. In a way, the music also enters into a loop and pauses before it comes in again more intensely than before. The faded-in slogan “We want a Poland of equal chances” moreover seems to mark an explicit and prominently staged closure of the first and transition to the second part. However, these aspects are not as straightforward as it may seem. Rather than explicitly closing the first part and marking the beginning of the second one, the faded-in slogan seems to function as a hinge that connects the two. Moreover, the music only pauses for a while and does not remarkably change its basic quality. Finally, the expressive qualities of the first part are so closely linked to those of the second part that they can be considered counterparts (tension vs. release; unevenness vs. balance; restraint vs. progress) and thereby provide a kind of negative space that anticipates its opposite ex negativo.
As such, the campaign commercial seems first and foremost moving towards the sensation of release, balance, and cohesion. For that reason, it is more likely that it consists of only one emu that in a highly condensed and intense manner addresses the viewer over the short course of 30 seconds. Through the interplay between expressive movement figuration and audiovisual representation the experience of release, balance, and cohesion is attributed to Jarosław Kaczyński who is shown opening the glass door. As a result, Kaczyński is experienced and understood as eliminating tension and imbalance between an inside and outside through a state of balance. What is more, the metonymical profiling of the depicted groups through audiovisual representation further specifies this emergent figurative meaning: Kaczyński is experienced and understood as providing access to the so far segregated and excluded.
It is noteworthy that this emergent figurative meaning – still without consideration of the verbal level – is close to the intended message of the campaign commercial as outlined by the chief of the election staff, Tomasz Poręba, namely, as presenting visions of a Poland of equal chances (“Tylko Kaczyński może otworzyć,” 2011). In other words, the audiovisual staging unfolds a highly concrete image of what a Poland of equal chances means and what it would look and feel like. The explicit link between the experiential realm of bringing balance and having access, and the topic of equality and political participation is provided at two moments through faded-in written and additionally spoken language. Through the slogan “We want a Poland of equal chances” at the end of the campaign commercial’s first half, an activation of metaphoricity occurs, connecting equal chances with having access (to a building). Remarkably enough, the audiovisual depiction of a door that separates people into groups inside and outside is at first glance contrary to what is expressed on the level of language, i.e., equal chances. What the viewer perceives due to the audiovisual staging is the opposite: unequal chances (Figure 14 below).
This contradiction between verbal and audiovisual imagery evokes a tension experienced by the viewer. At the same time, the audiovisual depiction corresponds to the verbal expression by providing ex negativo a highly concrete conceptualization of how chances are conceived of: equal chances are seen as having admittance and access (to a building). The experienced tension is pushing for a resolution,115 which takes place in the second half of the campaign commercial. Now, words and audiovisual images match without any contradiction. What the viewer sees and experiences are actual equal chances: admittance and access to the building and the experience of free and unhindered movement (Figure 14 below). Thereby, the intermediately presented slogan calling for equal chances that was activated negatively by the audiovisual imagery of the first half is now activated multimodally a second time in a positively corresponding manner. As a result, the emergent metaphorical meaning (equal chances as having admittance and access) has a high degree of activation, especially with regard to its experiential realm whose sensory-motor experiences are spelled out comprehensively in terms of being excluded vs. being admitted.
The highly activated metaphorical meaning that makes civic participation in politics graspable and understandable in terms of a juxtaposition of being excluded and having access is finally elaborated as a key policy decision: by showing Kaczyński at the end in a close-up shot, next to him the words “Premier Jarosław Kaczyński” and below the slogan “Time for courageous decisions”,116 the idea and action of providing access (to civic participation) is linked to risk-taking and resoluteness. As it is Kaczyński who opens the door and makes civic participation possible, its metaphorical elaboration as a brave and resolute action is metonymically extended to him, its initiator, and provides the justification to vote for him as Prime Minister (Figure 14).
Through the interplay of the two dimensions of audiovisual figurative meaning-making, the sensation of release, balance, and cohesion (orchestrated through cinematic expressive movement) that is attributed to Jarosław Kaczyński combines with the multimodal activation of metaphoricity, i.e., being excluded as an unequal chance and having access as an equal chance. The interface of the two experiences and images, i.e., the moment of change or transition between them, is unambiguously provided on the level of audiovisual representation: Jarosław Kaczyński. As a result, an overall figurative theme emerges that can be formulated as follows: JAROSŁAW KACZYNSKI IS EXPERIENCED AND UNDERSTOOD AS A DOOR OPENER FOR THE SO FAR SEGREGATED AND EXCLUDED CITIZENS, THEREBY MAKING FOR PARTICIPATORY EQUALITY.
Audiovisual staging plays a predominant role for the emergence of figurative meaning in the PiS campaign commercial. In the CDU and the PO campaign commercial, multimodally activated figurativity has played an equally predominant role against audiovisual staging. In contrast, the PiS party’s TV campaign ad unfolds the experiential realm of the overall figurative theme in a highly concrete manner while the audiovisual representation prepares the topic. In the end, language simply concretizes the latter – that is already present – by naming it explicitly (“Poland of equal chances”). For that reason, the PiS campaign commercial unfolds and expresses its overall figurative theme in a subtler manner (in contrast to the explicit form that prevails in the PO campaign commercial). Instead of making its political message highly explicit by spoken or written words, it evokes a vital feeling of its candidate by presenting him as a door opener, who releases tension and unevenness in favor of balance, cohesion, and progress.
The candidate Jarosław Kaczyński is inherently linked to the change in politics that is articulated in the form of a collective wish (“We want a Poland of equal chances”). More precisely, the called-for change to equal chances takes shape and form through the viewer’s experience of a strong tension that releases immediately: as conceptualization of opening a barrier or door that previously separated people into excluded and included. As such, the emergent metaphorical meaning (despite the subordinate role of language) presents a highly concrete embodied perspective of looking at and conceiving of Kaczyński within the current (and potentially future) politics of Poland. In contrast, the SPD campaign commercial from the 2009 German parliamentary elections unfolds no such specific image of its protagonist and candidate, neither through language and multimodally activated figurativity nor through audiovisual staging and sensations evoked by cinematic expressive movement.
Unlike the Polish PiS party, the German SPD had the dilemma of not having been in opposition but in office with its opponent, the CDU, during the terminating legislative period. With regard to the presentation of its program and the creation of an image of its candidate, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the party therefore could not draw on the collaborative government work as a target for criticism nor for self-promotion. As the CDU was said to have furthermore adopted many of its topics, the SPD also could not rely on a distinct political profile (see, e.g., Casdorff 2009, Geise 2010). In this light, the campaign commercial “Our country is capable of more” [Unser Land kann mehr], produced by the advertising agency Butter (Rottbeck 2012, 177), displays a strong and explicit aiming at content-related profiling (especially in the field of labor and social affairs) and personal profiling of the candidate Steinmeier (Geise 2010, 162). It does so by bringing both key aspects together through a metonymical link: the Germany plan (a long-term employment scheme that Steinmeier introduced on September 3, 2009). This plan stands for Steinmeier, his creator, and as such it is the chief subject and protagonist of the campaign commercial, i.e., the promoted product that convinces the spectator. In this respect, the SPD TV campaign ad fundamentally differs from the other three campaign commercials that have been analyzed in this book. By explicitly mentioning Steinmeier and the plan by an additional speaker apart from the candidate himself and the prominent promotion of the latter’s quality and public appreciation, it strongly reminds of a traditional advertising spot promoting a product or a brand by highlighting its advantages and additional values.
Such a classic line of argument structures the entire campaign commercial: it starts from a problematic issue, presents a solution, and provides evidence for it. The problematic issue is audiovisually staged by three existential questions at the beginning that are faded in as written language coming continuously nearer and are additionally expressed verbally by a female voice-over: “How do we want to live and work?”, “How do we close the gap between rich and poor?”, and “How do we create and ensure work?”. After this straightforward start, the voice-over immediately gives the answer to these initial questions: “Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s Germany plan opens up a new perspective for our country”. By showing simultaneously different shots of Steinmeier – mostly surrounded by and talking with or to people – the creator is (through contiguity) metonymically linked with his product: the Germany plan stands for its creator Steinmeier. Accordingly, the explicitly expressed solution to the initial problematic issues is metonymically concretized: with Steinmeier representing the answer or solution to the existential social questions. Therefore, the various subsequently faded-in newspaper quotations that serve as evidence for the proposed solution – all of them positive reactions to and evaluations of the plan – not only confirm the plan itself, but basically also Steinmeier. In this regard, the first 38 seconds of the campaign commercial primarily bring about the central message by means of a classical argumentative structure of question, answer, and evidence in a straightforward manner (Figure 15).
What is remarkable is that in light of a strong presence of spoken and written language, there is little activated figurativity during this initial sequence of 38 seconds apart from the metonymical link between the Germany plan and its creator Steinmeier. Although various verbal metaphorical expressions are articulated by the female voice-over (e.g., “close the gap between rich and poor”, “the plan has substance and a good foundation”), they are neither semantically connected to each other nor multimodally activated or elaborated. Hence, their imageries do not seem to be experientially present, wherefore the isolated verbal metaphorical expressions are sleeping instead of waking (cf. Müller 2008a, Müller and Tag 2010). Nevertheless, they are made salient through their simultaneous, crossmodal117 articulation in spoken (by the female voice-over) and written (by the faded-in newspaper quotations) language. According to the Iconicity Principle, such a double presence produces more meaning (Müller and Tag 2010, 94–95) even though the written language does not concretize the verbal figurative meaning experientially, but merely highlights the respective crossmodal moments attentionally within the course of the campaign commercial. Thereby, little peaks of attention are created for one thing. What is more, the newspaper reactions to the Germany plan are related to the existential questions from the beginning through their similar staging (i.e., by being expressed both verbally and in written form). Through this link between the problematic issues and the evidence, the in-between provided solution is (in addition to the explicit verbal line of argument) implicitly approved as an appropriate answer to the existential questions. In sum, the SPD campaign commercial is during its first 38 seconds primarily characterized by single attentional peaks that are foregrounded in the flow of time and both aesthetically and substantially related to each other. However, they do not give rise to a temporally, attentionally, and experientially unfolding figurative idea or scenario of the Germany plan or of Steinmeier.
This pattern of single condensed attentional peaks subsequently continues, whereby figurative meaning unfolds simultaneously in patches, but scarcely over a longer span of time. This becomes primarily evident when Steinmeier, who assumes the role of the speaker118 after the faded-in newspaper headlines, speaks about his goals concerning Germany’s future social and economic development (“With the right policy, we can make the breakthrough in the fight against unemployment in the next decade” [Mit der richtigen Politik können wir im nächsten Jahrzehnt den Durchbruch schaffen im Kampf gegen die Arbeitslosigkeit]). The corresponding measures that he verbally expresses are complemented by single audiovisual depictions. Thus, the phrase “with new products that save energy and protect the climate” [mit neuen Produkten, die Energie sparen und das Klima schützen] is audiovisually accompanied by glaring sunlight on a solar roof and by a flower meadow. As is the case with the Germany plan and Steinmeier, the verbally expressed aims for the future are metonymically depicted by contiguous aspects corresponding to them: the solar energy standing for new, energy-saving products and the flower meadow standing for the climate. The phrase continues “with new jobs in health and care services and in culture and the media” [mit neuen Arbeitsplätzen in Gesundheit und Pflege und in Kultur und Medien], being audiovisually complemented by images of blood pressure measurement and a CT screen as well as a young man leading an older woman by the arm and people sitting behind computer screens. Here again, the audiovisual depictions activate metonymicity by presenting what is verbally expressed through one contiguous aspect.
All these audiovisual metonymies119 are instances of short-time activations of figurative meaning that are, however, not semantically linked to each other, nor refer to something beyond themselves, as was the case in the CDU campaign commercial. In contrast, the single audiovisual depictions are heterogeneous in their staging; no connecting principle between them emerges and they remain rather isolated temporary peaks of activated figurative meaning. Such temporal dynamics of audiovisual figurativity that are characterized by single figurative moments also affect the attentional dynamics: they are condensed moments of activated metonymicity that recur in the temporal course but do so without any significant elaboration and therefore remain rather short-termed. The same holds for the experiential dynamics: the audiovisual concretizations create single moments of experiential concretization that appear less integrated but rather stand out compared to the rest of the composition. Basically, the audiovisual metonymies create little peaks of attention in the flow of the SPD campaign commercial that highlight meaning in patches, but do not intertwine and create a new level of meaning together (Figure 16). As a result, no consistent or overarching vital figurative conceptualization of the Germany plan or of the candidate Steinmeier arises.
Due to the prevailing of twofold (crossmodal) expressions that amount to overstatements of meaning, as well as isolated audiovisual illustrations and concretizations, a foregrounding of content occurs: the respective moments or sequences stand out in the flow of attention and are briefly experientially specified. In terms of content, this concerns exclusively programmatic issues of the Germany plan or of the party (‘new products’, ‘new jobs’), not Steinmeier as the candidate. Hence, the target of figurative meaning in the campaign commercial is not Steinmeier himself, but what he stands for politically and programmatically. This meaning-making process amounts to a selective illustration in patches instead of evoking an overall image. As such, it does not go beyond its mere illustrative function of making the goals of the Germany plan concrete and tangible.
This, in turn, corresponds to the overall emphatic emphasis that Steinmeier’s Germany plan is authentic and realistic: primarily through verbal expressions such as “[the plan’s] long-term objectivity”, “[the plan is] more concrete than anything that could hitherto be found in the election programs of competitors”, “these are ambitious goals, but they are feasible” [das sind ehrgeizige Ziele, aber sie sind machbar], and “our country is capable of more”. What becomes apparent in these utterances is the focus on the authenticity and feasibility of the plan’s goals, and the audiovisual depictions serve as evidence for this claim. That is to say, through the selective concretization and illustration of the plan’s goals, they not only stand out in the flow of attention against moments and phases when no audiovisual illustration occurs, but also become experientially real for a given time. In this sense, the experiential dynamics of audiovisual figurativity come up with the figurative imagery as a concrete and vital image, i.e., as “a highly specific sensory-motor experience” (Müller and Schmitt 2015, 321). For example, the audiovisual concretization of “new products that save energy and protect the climate” by glaring sunlight, a solar roof, and a flower meadow provides a clear idea and sensation of how these products and unspoiled nature look and feel like. In this manner, the experiential dynamics of multimodally activated figurativity serve a predominantly argumentative goal. Concomitantly, the experiential exemplification expresses a specific view on the respective reference: a domain highlighting within a domain matrix in Croft’s terms (2002 , 178–179). When Steinmeier speaks, for instance, of “a fair chance to good education for all children”, and a library with studying people and a lecture hall are shown, ‘good education’ is concretized and thus narrowed as university education. Such a predominantly argumentative and illustrative role of audiovisual images demonstrates that the campaign commercial does not create any image or tell a story; it makes a statement and seeks to do that convincingly by means of reason.
The temporal, attentional, and experiential dynamics of audiovisual figurativity thus serve primarily the rhetoric and visual argumentation of the claim to reality and feasibility of Steinmeier’s Germany plan. In this way, the plan is displayed as the realistic answer to the initially raised questions. The argumentation is as follows: Germany is, as matter of fact, capable of more. This ‘more’ is the Germany plan whose authenticity is proven by audiovisual concretizations. Through the metonymical connection between the plan and its creator established at the beginning, the reasoning is likewise extended to the candidate Steinmeier, wherefore Frank-Walter Steinmeier as well as his Germany plan is experienced and understood as the realistic answer to existential questions. However, the focus is on the Germany plan over the entire course of the campaign commercial (among others, through the audiovisual illustrations of the plan’s verbally expressed goals). Only at the end, an explicit shift of focus from the plan to its creator takes place when Steinmeier says “I’m sure, our country is capable of more. And I promise you that I will work hard for it” [Ich bin sicher: Unser Land kann mehr. Und ich verspreche Ihnen, dass ich hart dafür arbeite]. The result of this imbalance is that the Germany plan is in the foreground and serves as the metonymical evidence for Steinmeier’s political qualification. Viewing the campaign commercial, the spectator thus basically does not get a vital idea of him but rather of his Germany plan, which leads to conclusions about him.
In contrast to the campaign commercials of the CDU, the PO, and the PiS party, audiovisual staging is strongly subordinated and gives advantage to the content of the central message. For example, the underlying music’s slightly pulsating start evokes a euphoric atmosphere. Although the beat intensifies when drums come in, the volume is restrained in turn, and the melody does not advance but remains in a loop. As a result, the rhythm does not unfold noticeable accelerations or decelerations; it remains moderate and does not push to the fore. The movement of the montage parallels this quality. It constantly changes from calm (e.g., the faded-in questions at the beginning or Steinmeier talking to the camera) to highly dynamic phases that are composed of various heterogeneous shots following one another in quick succession. The little camera movement strengthens this sensation of constant alternation between smooth and accelerating dynamics that encompasses the whole campaign commercial with no noticeable modification or development.120 For that reason, the SPD campaign commercial consists of one cinematic expressive movement unit encompassing its entire length that is characterized by a steady and regular succession of (or alternation between) dynamic and calm movement. Unlike the emus in the other campaign commercials, it does not unfold its expressive quality in such a prominent manner.
This might be due to the fact that the SPD campaign commercial presents itself in an accentuated factual, sober, and realistic manner whereby language plays a predominant role and audiovisual staging mainly serves an illustrative and argumentative function. As such, also the experience that is evoked by the movement composition of music, montage, and camera movement reinforces the emergent figurative meaning that is induced through language. The steady and balanced rhythm unfolding from the alternation between powerful dynamics that are in the next moment restrained evokes a sensation of moderation and regularity with Steinmeier and his Germany plan. In other words, Steinmeier as his Germany plan is experienced and understood as a modest and balanced political actor.
The fact that the experiential qualities of the movement composition do not play out in such a prominent manner, as was the case with the other campaign commercials, is also due to the fact that on the verbal level no consistent image or scenario of Steinmeier and his Germany plan emerges. Instead, the few isolated multimodal activations primarily foreground Steinmeier’s and his program’s authenticity and verisimilitude. In this respect, the sensations evoked by cinematic expressive movement underline the multimodally activated figurative meaning by unfolding an overall figurative theme that can be formulated as follows: FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER AS HIS GERMANY PLAN IS EXPERIENCED AND UNDERSTOOD AS THE SOBER AND REALISTIC ANSWER TO EXISTENTIAL QUESTIONS.
This overall figurative theme as such emerges during the first 38 seconds of the campaign commercial; the rest of the time is filled with its verification and confirmation. This sober and argumentative style is paralleled by the voice quality. Steinmeier’s voice and the female voice-over are synchronized in regard to their calm and certain tone. Corresponding to this tonal quality, a content-related orientation comes up: “How do we want to work and live?” – “We have to act resolutely!” – “We can achieve this and that aim!” Due to the repetition of the modal verbs (and their respective syntactic connection with the personal pronoun ‘we’ [wir]) in the particular sequences, they are made salient. Moreover, the recurrence of the prosodic features (sentence accent on the modal verbs) over the course of the campaign commercial unfolds a structure that relates the single sequences to each other and thus establishes a context that has as its subject the capabilities of ‘we’. This ‘we can’ is (in a slightly modified form) reflected in the final sentence of the campaign commercial, “Our country is capable of more”,121 and thus strengthens the central message of Steinmeier regarding his program as being the realistic and sober answer to existential questions.
The predominance of language in the SPD campaign commercial has been demonstrated to bring about a particular form of audiovisual figurative meaning-making, namely one that emerges rather condensed and in patches in all three aspects of dynamics: speech initiates its concretization at particular moments in time in which figurative meaning is made salient and activated as a short-term vital experience but does not bring about a profound and tangible image of the candidate, as was the case in the PiS campaign commercial. The latter unfolded a highly concrete experience and idea of Jarosław Kaczyński as a door opener for previously excluded citizens, releasing the citizens’ power and energy and thereby leading to progress. Compared with this, the moderate and regular sensations that are evoked by the cinematic expressive movement in the SPD campaign commercial do not seem to be geared to Steinmeier in particular. Rather, the audiovisual staging appears to run parallel to language and to be hardly compositionally interrelated with it. This and further questions concerning the link between the different forms of audiovisual figurativity and the emergent candidate images are addressed from a comparative perspective in the subsequent section: first, by looking at the two challenger campaign commercials and then by considering the two incumbent campaign commercials.
Social sciences research on campaign commercials has repeatedly underlined their similarity with product advertising concerning the emotional addressing of the viewers in order to achieve their positive identification with the promoted product: the candidate and his or her party. In this respect, they create – in the literal and equally in the figurative sense – an image of the candidate: on the surface, the audiovisual images of campaign commercials show him or her, e.g., Angela Merkel in the chancellery, Donald Tusk on his campaign trail with the citizens and at work with other politicians, Jarosław Kaczyński together with the excluded people, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaking in front of people and to the camera. Concomitantly, these images do not come up in a vacuum but are situated in a media context of audiovisual movement-images that the viewers make available to themselves in an embodied manner: “We are not making our world of objects, but we are instead taking up these objects in experience. In other words, objects are not so much givens as they are takings.” (Johnson 2007, 75) As such, campaign commercials make political candidates present, concrete, vital, and tangible; they create an experientially and cognitively vital image of them on the part of the viewers.
Metaphor and metonymy play a crucial role in this process of image formation by enabling the viewer to make sense of the candidate on the basis of multimodally activated figurativity and sensations evoked by cinematic expressive movement. In the analyses of the selected four German and Polish campaign commercials, figurativity has turned out to be always context-bound and therefore highly specific. On this account, Kenneth L. Hacker’s definition of political candidate images as “representations of political subjects” (Hacker 1995, xiv; emphasis mine), which suggests their ex ante givenness, should basically be reformulated as ‘creations’ or ‘concretizations’ of political subjects. Along with it, further factors such as voters’ attitudes and emotions as well as evaluations of the candidate, also on the basis of conceptualizations from other presentational and communicative contexts, play a role for a voter’s overall preference or rejection of a particular candidate. The emergent figurative images from campaign commercials are thus one component among others in the process of image formation.122
The analyses of the campaign commercials of the Polish PiS party and the German SPD have revealed clear differences in regard to the figurative meaning of their two protagonists Jarosław Kaczyński and Frank-Walter Steinmeier. These differences stand out despite clear parallels with regard to their political position during the respective elections and content-related analogies (e.g., call for change or emphasis on optimism for the future; cf. Holtz-Bacha and Kaid 1993, 62 drawing on Trent and Friedenberg’s challenger strategies). While the PiS campaign commercial brings about an image of Kaczyński as somebody who will open doors for previously excluded citizens, releasing their power and energy and thereby leading to progress, the SPD campaign commercial in turn does not give rise to a concrete and tangible image of Steinmeier but rather of his Germany plan as the sober and realistic answer to existential questions. This remarkable contrast between the two campaign commercials, both of the figurative images themselves and of their emergence, is traceable to their distinct interrelatedness of language and audiovisual staging. In the case of the PiS campaign commercial, spoken and written language have been demonstrated not to play such a predominant role as in the SPD campaign commercial; they primarily convey in an explicit manner the target of the experiential grounds of figurative meaning provided by audiovisual staging (i.e., Poland). In the case of the SPD campaign commercial, in contrast, audiovisual staging subordinates to language by primarily conveying single illustrations of verbally expressed contents, whereas spoken language unfolds an argumentative structure (i.e., the Germany plan is the answer to existential questions) but no consistent – and activated – figurative meaning.
Thus, although both TV campaign ads thematically display the same challenger strategies, namely a call for change (PiS: admitting the excluded; SPD: the Germany plan) and an optimistic perspective on the future (PiS: equalize and revitalize Poland; SPD: make the breakthrough against unemployment), the respective interplay of the two dimensions of audiovisual figurativity evokes completely different images of the two candidates, whereby the named strategies are affected in their significance and meaningfulness. That is to say, in the case of the PiS campaign commercial, the change and the optimism bring about a completely different effect and relevance in the context of a resolute door opener Kaczyński, who initiates dynamics and energy. This stands out in comparison to the case of the SPD campaign commercial and in the context of a candidate Steinmeier of whom no vital and tangible image emerges. This clearly suggests that Trent and Friedenberg’s content-related categories need to be considered with regard to their respective emergence through audiovisual figurativity in order to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of their situated role and impact, and of the situated image of the candidate.
A similar contrast as the one discussed between the two challenger campaign commercials can be noticed in the two incumbent campaign commercials of the German CDU and the Polish PO party. Their respective protagonists, Angela Merkel and Donald Tusk, evoke similarly contrasting figurative meanings and thus also candidate images. In the first case, Merkel is experienced and understood as a powerful sovereign with civil roots who is nevertheless close to the people. Tusk, on the other hand, does not present such a sovereign image; he is experienced and understood as a pressured leading builder of the uncompleted construction project of Poland, who is asking for an extension of the deadline for completion. The two emergent meanings and images of the candidates are even more remarkable in direct juxtaposition when Trent and Friedenberg’s incumbent strategies are also taken into consideration. Both campaign commercials display a content-related mention of the candidate’s political office and an emphasis of what has been achieved so far (cf. Holtz-Bacha and Kaid 1993, 62 drawing on Trent and Friedenberg’s incumbent strategies). However, the mere thematic presence of these two aspects does not allow for conclusions with regard to the respective image of the promoted candidate. In the CDU campaign commercial, their staging predominantly establishes the civil origin of Angela Merkel and her metonymical link with the people. In the PO campaign commercial, their staging in turn evokes the sensation of tension and pressure with Donald Tusk.
This distinct role and meaningfulness of the same incumbent strategies is again due to the respective audiovisual figurative meaning that emerges throughout the campaign commercials. In the case of the CDU TV campaign ad, it is the balanced interplay between an extended pattern of high-grade activated metonymicity and the viewers’ vivid sensation of power and stability that in a well-composed and well-matched manner evokes the image of an absolutist sovereign who is above it all. In the case of the PO campaign commercial, figurative meaning emerges and develops predominantly through monomodal and multimodal activated figurativity and is as such complemented and underpinned by the affective experience of pressure and tension unfolded by its highly dynamic, heterogeneous, and seemingly unstructured audiovisual composition.
Such a different interplay and relation between the two dimensions of audiovisual figurativity has been mistakenly considered as a lack of professionalism: in her cross-national comparative study of political communication in Germany and Poland, Musiałowska (2008, 134) makes the following point with regard to Polish campaign commercials: “In many cases commercials were dominated by talking-head formats which weakened the overall spot’s dynamics. As a consequence Polish ads achieved high professional standards not as often as German ads.” Due to this evaluation as less professional, she tries to draw conclusions concerning their impact on the viewer: “The study did not provide empirical evidence referring to this issue. Still, it can be assumed that voters would find static talking-head formats more boring since they were accustomed to modern media formats showed in television programmes” (Musiałowska 2008, 207).
The film-analytical approach to cinematic expressive movement (Kappelhoff 2004, Kappelhoff and Bakels 2011, Scherer, Greifenstein, and Kappelhoff 2014) has shifted such a perspective on the viewer’s experience of audiovisual media away from single and individually considered formal aspects and represented content, towards the audiovisual composition in its multimodal and temporal unfolding as expressive movement. Accordingly, it is not the use of, for example, certain special effects or the number of changes of camera perspectives that guarantees a particular impression or impact on the part of the viewer as Musiałowska suggests. Because of its dissimilarity to the well-composed TV campaign ad of the CDU, the PO campaign commercial is a suitable example to illustrate this point. Due to the obviously random content of its shots, their quick succession, and the apparent lack of an overall structure, it might appear less professional and barely reasonable, let alone appealing, to the viewer at a first glance. Nevertheless, the conducted transdisciplinary (film-analytical and cognitive-linguistic) analysis (see Chapter 7) has revealed how audiovisual figurativity creates indeed a productive “way of understanding through experience” (Müller and Schmidt 2015, 319) over its course; however, one that comes about in a more language-induced manner than in the case of the CDU campaign commercial.
The country-specific comparison of the four campaign commercials with regard to incumbent and challenger shows that the political situation and circumstances as well as the programmatic orientation of the respective party are reflected in the campaign commercials. The CDU campaign commercial in the context of the German parliamentary elections in 2009 focuses entirely on Merkel’s character and political personality and makes it its political program and message. The SPD campaign commercial, on the other hand, seeks to focus in an accentuated manner on programmatic content and an objective line of argument instead of promoting Steinmeier’s personality, whereby he, however, does not become concrete and tangible but remains rather vague. This indicates that the lack of an experiential basis affects figurative meaning-making and candidates’ image formation in that it makes them less profound and comprehensible. The PO campaign commercial in the context of the Polish parliamentary elections in 2011 focuses on creating a vivid image of the justification of Tusk’s re-election in terms of external circumstances. Thus, unlike the CDU campaign commercial, it does not argue the case for the electoral vote by means of Tusk’s personality but lays the focus on the significance of an overall goal (i.e., a future Poland that is strong and rich). This different focus and political self-conception of Tusk is also reflected in the emergent figurative meaning, for it is the (image of a) huge and complex construction site that makes him the leading builder under pressure, not his personality or his competence. In contrast, the PiS campaign commercial reflects the integrative approach to address a wide range of voters by focusing on Kaczyński’s political personality whose affective experience, similar to Merkel, becomes the political program and message.
Thus, the two Polish campaign commercials display the reverse pattern of concentration on personality and programmatic content than is the case with the German TV campaign ads: the incumbent Tusk focuses on the programmatic goal of a strong and rich future Poland, while the challenger Kaczyński draws on the experiential qualities of his personality. What this all amounts to is that an in-depth analysis of audiovisual figurativity makes an important contribution to the examination of challenger and incumbent strategies: it sheds light on the question of how these strategies, which are actually thematic aspects, come about, i.e., how they are audiovisually composed and unfolded within the campaign commercial.
In summary, the analyses of the four campaign commercials have therefore demonstrated
In the concluding section, this issue will be discussed in greater detail.
Campaign commercials are supposed to make parties, as well as their programs and candidates, understandable and graspable, to literally give them a face, to create them an image. These faces or images are, however, not given a priori in terms of audiovisual representations but only emerge in the process of viewing the TV campaign ads. As Kappelhoff and Greifenstein (2016, 184) put it:
[S]pectators themselves let moving images become visual representations in the modes of metaphor-making of “seeing one thing in terms of another” […] and these representations indicate an artistically created, manufactured, fictional world in their every trait. […] This is the sense in which we understand the reception of film images as poiesis, as an act of artistic production, which is to be found in media consumption itself […].
In this respect, the campaign commercials of the PiS party and the SPD display clear differences in regard to the emergent figurative meaning of their two protagonists Jarosław Kaczyński and Frank-Walter Steinmeier as resulting from their distinct interplay between language and audiovisual staging. In the case of the PiS campaign commercial, the overall figurative theme is predominantly grounded in the modulation of affective experience through audiovisual staging and audiovisual representation. This way, figurative meaning unfolds temporally, attentionally, and experientially in an extensive pattern over the course of time. Through the audiovisually staged movement experience of withdrawn flowing powerful movement and its release by Kaczyński as the one who opens doors, figurative meaning emerges in a rather subtle manner. In the case of the TV campaign ad of the SPD, on the other hand, spoken and written language are prominently in the fore and create – by means of audiovisual illustrations and concretizations – a condensed pattern that is composed of single temporal, attentional, and experiential peaks. As a result, the respective contents are marked as salient and important in the course of the campaign commercial and audiovisual figurative meaning emerges in a far more explicit and representational manner.
Remarkably enough, the explicit form of figurative meaning-making in the SPD campaign commercial does not lead to a more concrete and tangible image of the candidate Steinmeier as compared to the PiS campaign commercial. Rather, its interrelatedness of speech and audiovisual staging in terms of twofold expressed meaning and single concretizations that differs fundamentally from the PiS campaign commercial leads to the “effect that the visuals […] are perceived as mere illustrations, as doublings of the spoken word” (Scherer, Greifenstein, and Kappelhoff 2014, 2089). As such, the isolated moments of activated figurativity in the SPD campaign commercial amount to single overstatements of (figurative) meaning instead of activating an unfolding process of emergent interactions between two present realms and thus evoking a tangible image of the candidate Steinmeier.123
It is hence not sufficient to consider figurativity in audiovisual formats as if it emerged predominantly from language and single (static) pictures. Instead, only a comprehensive consideration of the dynamic link and composition of language and audiovisual staging makes it possible to qualitatively describe and differentiate the campaign commercials in respect to their emergent figurative meaning: the non-objective and rather subtle form of figurative meaning-making in the PiS campaign commercial creates a far more tangible image of the candidate Kaczyński than the explicit form does with Steinmeier in the SPD campaign commercial. The transdisciplinary perspective thus allows for detecting and explaining the qualitative differences between the two campaign commercials in a substantiated manner by reference to different forms of audiovisual figurativity. In the subsequent concluding chapter, these forms that have been introduced in Chapter 5 as different dominance phenomena among language and audiovisual staging (i.e., language over audiovisual staging, audiovisual staging over language, or a balanced interplay between the two) are related to the four campaign commercials and comparatively discussed with regard to their impact on figurative meaning-making and candidate image formation. On this basis, conclusions are drawn for future cognitive-linguistic research on (audiovisual) figurativity in political contexts of use in general as well as for future political, social, and media science research on campaign commercials.