Wolves at the Door: Musical persuasion in a 2004 Bush-Cheney advertisement

  • Matthew A. Killmeier University of Southern Maine
  • Paul Christiansen University of Southern Maine
Keywords: Music in advertising, political advertising, musical persuasion


Many journalists and scholars overlook the discursive role of music in TV political advertisements. But we argue that music is a potent means of political persuasion. Music in advertisements is determinative; all other elements—images, voiceovers, sound effects, written text, and so on—are circumscribed by the music and interpreted in relation to it. Music determines an advertisement’s character through framing and underscoring; musical frames establish interpretative categories and generate expectations, while underscoring comprises music that closely coordinates with images and voiceovers to form a persuasive aesthetic and rhetorical unity. A close reading of a 2004 Bush-Cheney advertisement applies this theory of frames and underscoring to explain the advertisement’s effectiveness. Without music, the advertisement would not only fail to persuade, it would also make no sense.

Author Biographies

Matthew A. Killmeier, University of Southern Maine
Department of Communication and Media Studies Assistant Professor
Paul Christiansen, University of Southern Maine
School of Music Assistant Professor
How to Cite
Killmeier, M., & Christiansen, P. (2011). Wolves at the Door: Musical persuasion in a 2004 Bush-Cheney advertisement. MedieKultur: Journal of Media and Communication Research, 27(50), 21 p. https://doi.org/10.7146/mediekultur.v27i50.2857