Though the long procession of speakers at the national party conventions may become a blurry drone for all but the most politically obsessed TV viewers, the chosen few dozen people to grace the stage are carefully selected characters in a well-crafted story defined by symbolism, themes and diversity.
Many of the players and parts are obvious: local leaders, governors and members of Congress, CEOs, friends of the candidate, family members — a fine balance of race, gender, age and geography.
What stands out in that Facebookesque story line, however, are the Main Street Americans, the everyday people making cameo appearances.
"It's like writing a novel: What's the narrative; what's the plot line? Then you bring in your casting experts and pick the people," said Randy Roberts, a Purdue University professor of popular culture, who follows elections. "They pick them to create a narrative that they want to tell."
They, of course, are the party's national committee, the convention team and the candidate's advisers.
"The campaigns make the final decisions," said Republican strategist Trey Hardin of Vox Global, a public affairs and strategic communications firm.
And, yes, that can include the presidential candidate, too.
The "real person" touch is widely thought to have originated with the presidency of Ronald Reagan. What started as a State of the Union address element was later expanded to serve the conventions, said Tony Fratto, an adviser to President George W. Bush and now managing partner at Hamilton Place Strategies.
The speakers are part of the parties' brand. "You sell it with real people, a concrete example," said Roberts.
This year only a few speakers fit the Main Street American part. "Maybe it was overdone in the past," said Fratto, but their brand value is central and powerful.