Negative Ads Producing Effective Results

With the midterm elections under four weeks away, we are already getting barraged by political ads everyday, with most of them negatively biased toward one candidate or the other. As Susan Powder says, “Stop the madness!” I will agree and say that it drives us all crazy and becomes annoying quickly after you see the same ad multiple times in between your favorite 1-hour show. But why does it seem like these political ads are on constant repeat?  It gets to the point where it is stuck and your head and you can practically remember the whole message…oh wait, that’s why it works!

In the final weeks leading up to the election, candidates are desperately looking for ways to separate themselves from their competition. It seems that the only way to do so is to call the other out about some policy, a bill they voted on in the past that doesn’t align with their current claims, or just plain dirt, dug up from the depths to describe their competitor as the worst type of person.  All of this bottled up into a 30-second political ad. Positive or just the regular style of political advertising doesn’t seem to have the same effect anymore compared to the power of the negative ads.  Think about it, if one candidate refuses to take part in the political bashing that occurs in these ads, then it may communicate to voters that he is hiding from the truth.  So the moment one negative attack ad is broadcast, the war is on, thus beginning the onslaught of political ads we see on TV day-in and day-out.  One candidate simply cannot refuse to take part in this battle because the risk of finding out what would happen if they didn’t  So unfortunately for us viewers, we roll with the punches and begrudgingly watch and survive these negative ads up until election day.

So with these political ads now a norm, we take notice to the ones that are effective and make a strong claim regarding a particular candidate.  Some stand out more than others, for good and bad reasons.  Some deliver a strong message verbally or visually that leaves a mark on viewers. One of the most famous negative political ads that really got the ball rolling was aired in 1988 in the presidential election between Republican candidate George Bush Sr. and Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis.  Bush attacked his opponent Michael Dukakis on his lenient policy for weekend passes at prisons, which in turn became the most effective political ad on his way to presidential victory. Check out one of the most famous negative ads of all time:

So for the next couple of weeks enjoy the smorgasbord of negative political ads that will invade your television, radio and online browsing experience. The elections cannot come fast enough. Happy negative attack ad watching!

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