Down 'n Dirty: The Art of the Negative Political Ad

By Media & Advertising

The art of negative political ads

The impact of negative political ads in an election.

As the presidential race heats up and steers toward a contentious nomination for both major parties, expect the tone to get even nastier. With candidates looking for any kind of advantage, campaigns are trying to paint a contrast with the ideas and records of their opponents and at some point almost all will go negative.

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Democratic strategist and Ad Man, John Rowley has been making political ads for almost thirty years. From representing candidates running for city council to the President of the United States, he’s seen and tried almost everything, but their success, he says, hinges on understanding the viewers watching at home. Rowley explains, “People remember negative information, we know this, on a three to one level and so it’s one reason negative ads are used.”

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Rex Elsass, a Republican strategist and Ad Man, describes what he calls a “deadly killer” in the negative ad world, “The goal is to focus people’s attention on those things that they agree with our client on and those things that they disagree with our competitor. And, so ultimately, the more creative and the more you can take the edge off of an ad, the more effective it’s going to be. So, it’s what I call a deadly killer.”

Negative ads have the power to sway voters and ultimately win elections. With so much on the line, delivering your message with the right tone and an entertaining execution is the challenge. As Rowley says, “Lightening in a bottle when you’re making political ads is if you can deliver a negative message against your opponent and then leave the audience laughing at them… Then you’ve got a grand slam.”

Check out the video above for an in-depth look at the art of the negative ad.

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