People usually scrutinize advertising promises carefully, reacting to each claim of “new and improved” with “prove it to me.”  But it’s election season, that season where people decide to believe the most ludicrous claims that can possibly be crammed into a :30 second spot.

“Candidate A has ties to Z.”

“My opponent, candidate B, said C that proves Y.”

“If elected, I pledge to do C because I believe in X.”

I’m not a political commentator, so I will never offer any opinions or views on particular politicians on this blog. But I am a marketing commentator.

So, to sort through this craziness, I want to suggest a simple “rule” for how to interpret political advertising:

Scrutinize political advertising the way
you would scrutinize car advertising

As you watch a political ad, imagine that the product is not a candidate, but a car.  Imagine that every nasty thing said by one candidate about another is a Lexus dealer saying something nasty about an Accura dealer down the street.

“Our rival’s lending policies are unfair to middle America.”

“Our cars will get you to the moon, and save you money!”

Would you believe any of this? Of course not!

“If you buy my car, I pledge to bring you prosperity, even if it
requires me to suspend the laws of economics and physics.”

“My opponent may claim that his car is made in America,
but can he prove it? Show us the bills of lading!”

Each political party and most candidates are guilty of this. And we citizens suffer, not only because we don’t get accurate political information, but because we have to suffer through these ads if we choose to have the television on.

The only winners?  Ad agencies, who get to suspend standards of good communication and lower the bar on truth, producing anything that looks or sounds good to a citizenry suspending its sense of judgment.  This may even be more fun than working on Super Bowl spots!


  • Phil Yastrow
    Sep 28, 2010 - 20:09 pm

    The things said in a political ad mapped into a car commercial is hilarious. Why do people put up with this? The smart ones don’t. But will that keep me from buying a Toyota over a Ford? The Toyota brand [harmony] has been good enough over they years that I don’t care what they say in the commercials. But I might if their claims about candidate B are too ridiculous, hostile and dramatic.

  • Amanda Cullen
    Sep 30, 2010 - 09:47 am

    I see the political ads are getting to you, too, Steve. I’ve been working on a draft blog post about how terrible political marketing is… complete with eyebrow-raising examples. Maybe if enough people protest their terrible advertising, politician will change? Nah.

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