The Effects of Negative Advertising in Politics

March 31, 2012 by  Filed under: Advertising 

There are two sayings that some marketers and some publicists believe in, “any publicity is good publicity,” and “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Well, easy for them to say because they typically are the ones creating it. However, history has taught us that there certainly are examples where that isn’t the case. In our previous post, we discussed and reviewed Advertising Age’s “The Top 10 Game-Changing Political Ads of All Time,” and saw clearly where a negative advertisement detrimentally destroyed another candidate’s chances of winning or nomination.

Bottom line: NEVER ignore ANY bad press.

Not sure how to further emphasis the importance of that advice. You should instead embrace it, react to it. Ultimately, what you will see happen is that what you say and what you do could turn a dreary situation into a positive one. Take the work and words of others and spin them into something that works in your favor.

With the 2012 Presidential Campaigns just around the corner, never before have we seen negative advertising in political campaign done as heavily as this year. We imagine that the public are tired of propaganda and hate how our American political campaigns are comprised of nothing but negative advertisements. But where is the line drawn? There’s a clear, obvious difference in the types of negative ads that are published whether via television, radio, or print ads like billboards and campaign signs: A) Ads that attack their opponents on a personal level and B) Ads that point out a candidate’s mistakes (e.g. candidate that has voted for and against an issue).

The problem, and potential mistake, of airing a video or publishing an ad that’s too personal is that viewers can judge that candidate as playing really dirty. Meaning, although you’re trying to publish a negative advertisement to help you win, you end up losing support for airing an advertisement that’s irrelevant to the campaign. Another interpretation is that those types of ads are “low-blows.” More importantly, you’re not revealing how you are qualified for the position and how your opponent isn’t.

The other type of negative ads is ones that are relevant to the campaign and office positions. They are ones that reveal suspicious activity regarding a political topic or issue. These types of negative ads are typically more effective and have more of an impact on potential voters. For some reason, a lot of viewers pay attention to “negative ads.” Even if the ads are exaggerating the truth, the messages in these ads are crafted very carefully and potentially could introduce new information to potential voters. The take-away there is that information, most likely FALSE information, are planted in their minds.

So what should you do if your candidate is “attacked”?

Do you let the press and your opponent continue with these ads and hope it goes away?

Do you retaliate and start publishing dirt on them?

Or do you acknowledge what was said and respond strategically?

Well, the answer is easy. It’s the third option, acknowledge what was said and respond appropriately and more importantly strategically. Sounds easy and sounds simple, it should sound like common sense. However, how many times that isn’t the first response to a problem? The answer is too many times. And, too many people have gotten into trouble because of that. As a politician, you simply can’t afford to do anything wrong.

Problems never go away on their own. Another popular proverb that’s appropriate here is that “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Whether what was said was the truth or not, or even exaggerated, acknowledge it. Bottom line is that information, especially gossip, spreads like wild fire. The worst thing you can do is not respond. So if something being said about you, you might as well say your point of view and your side of the story, but it’s made up for you.

If what was said was untrue, show evidence that proves otherwise. If there is even the slightest ounce of truth to what was said, admit your wrong-doing. The repercussions of lying will cause even more damage. It’s easy to point the finger; it isn’t easy to admit when you’re wrong. Do that and people will respect you.

If you can learn to turn something negative into positive, you’ll be more successful than dishing out some dirt on your opponent. Potential voters are forgiving and will surprise you and listen to what you have to say. Just be honest and genuine. At the end of the day, you’re human, and people will be able to relate to that. You can build trust and credibility with honesty. You may not be perfect, but guess what, no one is, including your opponent.

Wade Baffa is the CEO of CampaignPros, a company that specializes in campaign signs and political signs. He has been in the print promotional field for 8 years and obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Journalism from Western Illinois University in 2000. He has a philosophy that business practice should be built around solid relationships between company and customer.

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