Or, politics and advertising
About a year and a half into college at UT I switched majors from history to advertising. It was tough decision to make – I loved my classes and I was starting to move into courses far more interesting than the introductory classes we all go through. But, after much thought, I decided to do something I loved just as much with the added benefit (so I thought) of being more practical – writing. As it turns out, getting into the field as a junior copywriter wasn’t nearly as much of a sure thing as I thought, but that’s a story for another day. It was during one of my advertising courses, Advertising and Ethics, that I think I really started to pay attention to politics and candidates.
Contrary to what most believe, advertising is pretty heavily regulated. It seems otherwise with all the really, really bad advertising out there but, unfortunately, ads that just plain suck don’t fall within the purview of that regulation. One of the greats in the field, David Ogilvy, once wrote this: “The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife.” Most bad advertising has forgotten that bit of wisdom.
At any rate, in addition to the Federal Trade Commission there are countless professional and consumer watch-groups that work to ensure ads are truthful. And, for the most part, they’re pretty successful at it.
But that’s commercial advertising; political ads are a different animal altogether.
Political ads, for reasons passing understanding, qualify as free speech. Meaning they’re constitutionally protected to make whatever crazy-ass, fetched, unproven, or even dishonest claim they want and there’s absolutely nothing to stop them.
What would you think about a Ford ad where the spokesman told you the checmical makeup of the paint used on Hondas causes cancer? How about an ad that informs you Diet Coke increases your IQ? And yet, every election cycle we watch politicians make promises they have no intention of keeping or tell lies they know to be false.
So, what’s worse than a lie, an empty promise, or a baseless attack from these politicians in their ads? I give you subliminal advertising. Below is an ad attacking Al Gore during the 2000 election. Watch carefully. If you miss it, watch again and pause at second 25.
The irony is subliminal ads just don’t work. But that’s not the point. This is the kind of man America put in the White house. Twice.