I’ve never known anyone to admit that they were susceptible to the siren-like enchantments of Madison avenue advertising – but they are. We all are. And that is the genius of advertising. It achieves its amazing results, whipping audiences into a frenzy of white hot shopping, and no one senses it happening to them. The sobering truth is that advertisers are extremely sophisticated at manipulating oblivious audiences. In other words, when it comes to any form of advertising, we would be wise to remember the age old saying that if you sit down at a poker table and can’t spot the sucker, chances are it’s you.
Is it any wonder then, with so much at stake, that political advertising works just as effectively and scientifically as retail advertising? Here is an example of how a media-savvy campaign would plan a political attack ad if their male candidate were facing a female opponent.
1. Using sophisticated polling methodologies, they would first determine which voters would choose their candidate even if he was a paroled serial killer and which ones wouldn’t vote for him even if he was Abraham Lincoln.
2. Having determined which voters they didn’t have to persuade and which ones they couldn’t persuade, they would then construct their attack ads to appeal only to the undecided voters.
3. They next would assemble focus groups made up of the same demographics as the undecided voters and ask them to identify the traits they most despised in women. The usual answers are: controlling, overly emotional, hysterical, unfeminine, neglectful of children, ugly, stupid. They might even ask them to identify female characters in movies or books that they most feared, despised or mistrusted.
4. Next, they would review every speech and peruse every video and picture of the female candidate looking for something she said or did which matched-up with one of the negative traits.
5. Armed with this information they would create a commercial blending all these traits into a narrative about the opponent. For example, if ‘over-emotional’ were a hot button, they would find a picture of the female candidate crying and then splash over the screen angry, bold letters that said, “Will she crack under pressure?” – forgetting to mention that the picture was taken at the funeral of her mother. You get the idea.
If you doubt what I’m saying, please check out this excellent article filled with links to real political attack ads aimed at female candidates. It makes clear that in the world of political attack ads, if you are a woman, you are very likely to be attacked in a certain way – regardless of facts or your record.
But the same thing goes for men. They attack each other using the same principles. For example, men find it unmanly if male candidates don’t ‘stick to their guns’ on issues. Is it any wonder then that Mitt Romney, over and over again, is accused of being a ‘flip-flopper’ – regardless of the facts? Romney has changed his mind on some issues, as has every candidate with a brain during the course of their career, but Romney’s opponents have worked their “Madison Avenue Magic’ especially hard trying to paint him with the ‘flip-flop’ brush. Don’t fall for it. Check out this link to a non-partisan organization called FactCheck, which looks at 15 issues where Romney is accused of changing his opinion.
My next blog post may be something Christmasy – or it may be a movie review, if I happen to see a movie. Or even a book review. I just finished reading The Honorable Schoolboy by John LeCarre. Or it may be about life in South Africa. If you have a request, let me know.
Umhlanga, South Africa.