What I Like About Political Advertising

Thomas Marks brings years of marketing experience to his blog "It's All About Content" as the President and Managing Partner of TMA+Peritus. Prior to starting the agency in 1983, Tom was the VP of Marketing and Advertising for Bally Corporation in Chicago. He was also President of Bally's multi-million dollar in-house ad agency FFC Advertising.

Nothing, not a single thing. However, there is joy in Mudville, not because the mighty Casey didn’t strike out, but because the mudslinging is over, at least for a short while. No matter what side of the aisle you reside on, the fact of the matter is that political advertising, particularly the television aspect of it, is dreadful. Look at our last senate race — who on earth thought it was a good idea to show Russ Feingold pretending to eat, and for five or six seconds, no less? And the Ron Johnson family ad about not being actors; someone should have reminded Ron that what the family was doing was acting.

The first problem with the advertising in this last election — no wait, the last four elections — is that nearly all of it was missing the Chairman’s secret ingredient; that would be, of course, the human brain. That’s why the first ad in a campaign, and the last ad, are generally the best. The political hacks know they need to introduce their candidate in the right light at the outset, then cow-tow to the constituents in the last spot. But it all goes sideways in the middle. And here’s why. The people that are writing and producing these commercials aren’t ad people. Would you hire a political firm to advertise your product or service? Most likely not.

On the other hand, would you hire an ad agency to direct and produce TV commercials if you were a candidate? It used to happen a lot, and that’s when the advertising was good — sometimes great. Who could forget Ronald Reagan’s Tuesday Team of Phil Dusenberry, Hal Riney and Jerry Della Femina, each one a hall of famer. That’s when advertising is good, when its put in the hands of advertising professionals who understand the need to benefit the viewer, to address what keeps them up at night, and how to fulfill an unmet need.

In the case of political firms trying to be advertising firms, the outcomes are more than apparent. Yes, they probably answered question one of the campaign manager’s exam correctly — when is the right time to go negative — you mean something other than at the outset? Low production values, rudimentary directing and editing, and a healthy dose of what on earth were they thinking is what you get with the political advertising heretics. What you do get when an advertising agency produces a commercial is the notion that the company or the candidate is an uninvited guest in someone’s living room, so you better be respectful. Just how bad was it this election season? I, for one, never thought “Every Kiss Begins with K” would be music to my ears.

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