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Narrative: The key element in an effective political attack ad November 8, 2010

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
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As any local company trying to advertise on television during September and October 2010 knows, TV ad spending by political campaigns  reached a projected $3 to $4 billion. The spending spree jacked up ad rates, filled the pockets of TV networks, and surprised many TV viewers. Many of the ads this campaign season were negative attack ads, and by most accounts they were amazingly successful.

So what makes negative advertising the go-to method for most political consultants wishing to impact an election? The obvious answer: the ads work. As Ad Age‘s Tom Denari argued, attack ads work, despite the public’s professed hatred for them, because they create powerful narratives assigning key political players the roles of villain and hero.

For more on the surge in attack ads in 2010, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  What were the most memorable attack ads of the 2010 election cycle?

2.  What made those attack ads so memorable?

3.  Why were attack ads especially effective during this particular election year?

4.  What are the risks of running attack ads? Should candidates learn from 2010 that attack ads are always the best method of impacting a campaign? If not, under what conditions might running attack ads be a bad idea?

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