Ashley Faulkner: Most Expensive Campaign Ad

Most expensive TV campaign ad goes for emotions (USA Today)

The most expensive TV ad buy of the presidential campaign shows President Bush (news – web sites) consoling a teenage girl whose mother died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. The ad, created by the conservative Progress for America Voter Fund, will run until the election on cable stations and in nine key states at a cost of $14.2 million, said the group’s president, Brian McCabe. (Related link: Ad analysis)

The ad was inspired by a photo of Bush hugging Ashley Faulkner, who is now 16, while campaigning in Lebanon, Ohio, on May 4. The photo, taken by the girl’s father, Lynn Faulkner, was widely circulated on the Internet. As Bush shook hands in the crowd, the Faulkners’ neighbor told him that Ashley had lost her mom on 9/11. Bush enfolded Ashley in his arms and offered her comfort. “In the midst of all those people and all that noise, it was an intimate and personal moment,” Lynn Faulkner, a marketing consultant and a Republican, said in an interview. His wife, Wendy Faulkner, an information-systems executive, was in the South Tower on Sept. 11. The ad features the photo and Ashley and her father talking about Bush. “All he wants to do is make sure I’m safe,” Ashley says in the ad. Lynn says in the ad that he saw in Bush “what I want to see in the heart and soul” of a president.

Progress for America Voter Fund’s eight previous ads have been a mix of attacks aimed at Sen. John Kerry and positive ads on Bush’s record. Its most widely seen ad, “Absolutely Incorrect,” shows Kerry saying he has never wavered on Iraq and highlights his comment that he voted for a bill to spend $87 billion in Afghanistan and Iraq before he voted against the final version of the bill. McCabe said his group has spent $24.8 million on TV ads, including “Ashley’s Story.” The new ad will be buttressed by a Web site, E-mails, automated phone calls and 2.3 million brochures will go to voters. “Most political messages in October are harsh and negative,” McCabe said. “We’re going in the opposite direction to … highlight what everyone knows and likes about President Bush.”


Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska, said emotional ads like “Ashley’s Story” are effective. “One of Bush’s strengths is that he’s considered to be a warm person. Kerry isn’t,” she said. “This ad reminds voters about that. It also connects him to the 9/11 attacks and his actions right afterward. That’s another of his strengths.” And the ad could swing at least some undecided voters in Bush’s direction, Theiss-Morse said. “What matters most to a lot of people now is whether they can connect with the candidate,” she said.

Interesting. I’ve been spammed with the e-mail campaign several times already.

(via Glenn Reynolds via PoliPundit)

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Afghanistan War, Media, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I think the ad works. I had my wife watch it and she was crying by the end (which I had predicted).

  2. Tiger says:

    A good point to make and not a bit of mudslingin’ involved. I applaud it. I definitely do!

  3. Attila Girl says:

    I was thinking about that photo just yesterday, and thought it might be time to dig it out again and re-run it on my blog. It says volumes about the President.

  4. Craig Chan says:

    Ashley Faulkner,

    To whom ever this email ends up with, please forward to Ashley Faulkner.

    Hi Ashley, my name is Craig Chan. My brother worked for Canter Fitzgerald on the 105st for of World Trade Center bulding #1. I saw your ad and I am also a huge Bush supporter. I know exatly what you have been through for I have struggled to deal with the loss of my brother Chip Chan. He was very close to me and I never new what I would do without him. It’s still a daily struggle to come to the realization that he is gone. I am 23 now which was how old he was when he died that day on sept. 11, 01. If I was granted one wish in this world, it would be to spend more time with him. I miss him just as much as you miss your mother. I hope that you will find this message and realize that there are other people that have gone throught the same hardships as you have. Please email me back at cc****@br*****.edu i look forward to hearing from you.

    Craig Chan
    Peoria, IL

  5. Susan Brackett says:

    This ad shows the heart of our President. Who would you want to be with during a time of saddness or terror? George Bush or John Kerry?

    Answer that, then cast your vote.

  6. Jim Dudley says:

    What a photo opportunity. It’s sad to see that the Bush Administration would spend that much money and milk the emotions of this poor girl and other 9-11 victims for what it’s worth. I, too, lost a friend on 9-11 and I support John Kerry. This is coming from a registered Republican too. Maybe if Bush would have actually read the intelligence briefings, some things would have been different. This administration has FAILED us. Can you imagine if all of these failures were under a democratic president? They would have never been able to run again!

  7. ED says:

    They were under a democrat Bill Clinton

  8. Donald says:

    George W. Bush is a great President. 4 more years is all we can hope for him to finish the job.

  9. Richard Korte says:

    To Jim Dudley:

    To say that the administration is milking the emotions of the girl is insulting. Are you aware the Conservitive Progress for America Voter Fund paid for that ad for starters? That ad shows that our president has a heart and id proudly support the president.

  10. ashamed of our division says:

    How quickly America forgets! Looks like the terrorists are getting exactly as they want, a divided America which will be easier to strike!
    We have an enemy and people had better wake up! They are planning on how to kill us and we are fighting eachother. Lets just put 9-11 aside and move on to a better, more prosperous, fresh start……I Don’t Think So!

  11. This ad really hits the heart. My friends are all Democrats, and I stand by this ad as a loyal American and Republican. I can’t vote yet, but when I can America will see the power of my vote, and how God’s will comes through. Ashely, I’m praying for you.

    This is my decleration of my belief in our president, and I will not stand for people’s ridicule.
    God Bless you all.
    4 more years.

  12. Proud American says:

    The election is over and George Bush is still in office. We need to put all the differences aside give the president a break and come united. screw “democrats” and “Republicans” or “Independants”. We are all Americans, we should come together not deride eachother. especially our president. Like the man or not, he does care and he does what he belives is best for all americans.