Fear-Mongering in Political Advertising

Weidert Group Staff
Posted by Weidert Group Staff on September 15, 2010

He’ll let the terrorists take over!

She’ll make all our jobs go away!

He voted for the economy to collapse!

This candidate likes everything good like family, patriotism and apple pie! 

This year, it feels like political pandering and playing on continued fears has reached an all time high (or low depending on how you look at it). No wonder this is called the silly season of politics. In fact, by the week of August 27, 2010, candidates running for state and federal offices had spent $395 million on mid-term election commercials (up from $286 million in 2006) and 70% of those ads were negative.

US politics has a long tradition of using scare tactics and honing in on people’s fears. Probably the most well-known “shockvertising” ad was Lyndon B Johnson’s Daisy ad making it appear that if American’s didn’t vote for him they would all die in a nuclear attack. Sounds ridiculous but many of today’s campaigns aren’t much better – on either side of the aisle.

GOP campaign ads are trying to make us conveniently forget exactly when and why the economy collapsed (and who was in office). Democrats try to distance themselves from their own party’s speaker and shift attention away from slow performance of the stimulus packages they voted for. Face it, we’re seeing signs of recovery and recognizing expansion efforts that need to be taken in spite of what each party is flinging at the other. Unfortunately, both sides are so short sighted that they don’t see how their negative actions are creating a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure.

As Frank Isca focuses on in his article, Trust but Verify needs to be the new mantra moving forward. Two candidates seem to understand this well and have chosen to actually state what they stand for, and provide verifiable facts and statistics to support their efforts. While I may personally disagree with one of their platforms, they are both taking the right approach for our times.

Senator Fuss Feingold (D) accurately portrays his record by clearly stating what he’s voted for and against during his tenure with little mud slinging. He even takes a humorous tone in one of his ads by demonstrating just what his viewpoint has earned him in Washington (lonely lunches). This is a brave move in the face of the current anti-incumbent, anti-Washington wave.

Lieutenant Governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch states she’s 100% pro-life, a firm conservative and a soccer mom. Being a local news personality gives her some credibility but she, too, is brave to make such clear and unequivocal statements in a state that typically tends to be more moderate.

In both cases, Feingold and Kleefisch have communicated what they see as their competitive advantage and why they should be the candidates of choice.

Marketing today means doing just that. What is your competitive advantage? How can you make it relevant in today’s new normal? Being successful now means recognizing the situation you’re in, capitalizing on small wins and regularly communicating to the marketplace in a manner that lets your targets trust you and verify your story.

Topics: Inbound Marketing

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