A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
The first “secret” is summed up in two words! They WORK!
Negative, or “Attack Ads,” work in a political campaign, for two reasons. One the typical political ad becomes stale and even irritating after about a week… tops. The average voter begins to tune out. They will not hear the ad if you continue it. It becomes a part of the background noise of their daily lives and… they tune it out. Savvy ad men, and political media specialists, have fresh, new, ads ready to release every few days.
Toward the end of a campaign, when all the ideas have been exhausted, and the listening and viewing public have tuned out… smart campaigns drop the bomb… the attack ad, or the negative ad.
The attack ad, or negative ad, immediately places the attacked candidate in an awkward position. He, or she, must immediately change gears and go from offensive to defensive mode. Candidates don’t win votes in the defensive mode. The opposing candidate can pile up points while the “attacked” candidate is busy trying to salvage his, or her, campaign.
Negative ads are as old as politics…even older. It’s a form of psychological warfare. It is extremely effective. Don’t look for negative, or attack ads, to disappear from American politics any time soon. When something works… you stick with it.
Secret number two: The American electorate actually LIKES negative or attack ads! Yes, we like them! Why? Because, it is one of the few times, during a political campaign, the voter is likely to hear the truth, or something approaching the truth! And we value that.
Ugly political campaigns are nothing more that coup attempts by one political party or the other. Instead of guns and bullets they use rhetoric. It has served us well for most of our history. So what if the campaign gets a little nasty? Well, it beats “boring” and … we just might learn something!
The more faint-hearted among us may not want to admit it, but the two secrets of “negative” and “attack” campaign ads are true, nevertheless.
So, next time you see, or hear, a candidate decrying an attack upon himself, or herself, by his opposition, remember it is simply a way to throw one’s opposition off stride, it frequently works, and THE PUBLIC MIGHT ACTUALLY LEARN SOMETHING!
Ain’t politics grand???