The rat behind the rat

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.

Peggy Drexler has a great article about this subject you can find here. Check it out.

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.  

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One comment

  1. So basically the article implies that McCain has done nothing but lie to the public. What the article conveniently left out was all the lies that Obama has told (can anyone say public campaign financing). Of course I am familiar with that particular site and am not surprised at all. It is interesting that you wrote about false ads (what we simple people call them) because that has been Obama’s rise to power. Through clever ads and catch phrases he has made people believe he is something that he is not. And just for the record I do not believe Saddam had anything to do with 9-11, never did, and I know the sun does not revolve around the earth. Sorry if I sound a little pissy but that article pretty much said if you are voting for McCain you are stupid.

    The best part of the article is on the media telling the truth…that made me laugh.

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