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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Negative campaigns often work

Sunday, October 27, 2002

A woman stopped me this week and suggested I write a column about the negative political advertising that comes our way on a daily basis. I said I'd be glad to but asked her if she was for or against the negative thrust. Well she was against it, of course, she said somewhat indignantly.

You see, we all rail against the negative route in political advertising but unfortunately, it often works. I reminded the lady that I had worked door-to-door in the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign for President when the image of a young child was superimposed over a mushroom cloud giving the impression that Goldwater would surely lead us into war. We know the results.

The point here is that negative advertising tends to get voter attention in a way that issues simply do not. That is indeed a sad indictment on the voting public but facts are facts. The advertising climate brings us information that brands political candidates. Then we decide if we agree or disagree with that brand. And sometimes we confuse comparative advertising with negative advertising when the only real purpose is to spotlight the differences in candidates.

Neither political party has a monopoly on going negative. But if voters did not respond to this approach they would drop it like a hot potato. Facts are that we do respond to those negative ads on the airwaves and they impact how we vote. So until that changes don't look for any change in advertising approach.

I know by now most of you are getting tired of the political rhetoric. In this last final week of campaigning, millions of dollars will be spent to attract those remaining undecided votes. Elections are won and lost in this final week. I know because I've been on both sides during the final push and I've seen leads vanish virtually overnight.

I don't have any words of comfort for my newfound friend who abhors the negative political tone. In a perfect world this would not be the case. Alas it is not a perfect world.



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