Negative Advertising

It seems like most of John McCain’s ads focus on how bad Obama is, and not any real reason why we should vote for McCain. I was thinking a week or two ago that McCain better get some stuff out there telling us why we should vote for him, beyond not being Obama, but I am reconsidering that.

I am not a marketing expert, but I have watched and studied it a little, and in general I am not completely against negative advertising, but you have to careful with it, because all to often it just lends credibility to the competition. There are two competing web development companies in my area that are in the middle of an advertising war, and Company A should be getting paid by Company B for all the advertising Company A is doing for the Company B, in the form of negative ads. If I was in the market, I think I would go to B first, especially since A’s ads are REALLY ANNOYING. The exception to this would be an obvious and close to equal competitor. If Coke ran an ad bashing Pepsi, everyone knows who Coke’s main competitor is, and the ad wouldn’t really risk boosting Pepsi’s sales by drawing attention to Pepsi. On the other hand, if Coke ran an ad ripping on Sprecher Puma Cola, (a local brewery, who makes really good soda, I would recommend trying them if you get a chance) it would make me question why Coke felt the need, and have me checking it out (assuming I didn’t already know it was better.)

Obviously in a general election, you are closer to the Coke/Pepsi example: everyone knows who the two candidates are, and you do not run the risk of legitimizing the other candidate. In fact, I my non-expert opinion of an ideal campaign would use both types of advertising, generally focusing more on your positives than your opponent’s negatives, maybe 60/40 or so. However, McCain appears to be investing heavily in negative ads, with little positive advertising.

After thinking that he better start giving us some reasons to be excited about him, I realized that maybe he is actually playing perfectly to his base: the people like me that look at him and say “well, not quite what I wanted, but at least he’s not Obama.”

Maybe it isn’t such a bad strategy after all.

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