Political ads — gotta hate ‘em, right?

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Published: July 31,2011

Tags: MBJ column, Nancy Anderson, political ads

Election years are great for the ad business. Politicians spend huge sums on ad creation and placement. It’s a boon for local media outlets. But I hate it!

Just seeing the mismatched, crooked collection of political signs on every corner makes me cringe. I can’t enjoy a quiet evening watching television without listening to some candidate declaring devotion to family, country and apple pie. And those are the good ads. The negative ads are worse. Mud is piling up around my television set, with each group accusing the other of all kinds of heinous crimes.

A marketer’s role is to sell a product, in whatever way they can. In a campaign, the product is a candidate. If you already have a good feeling about a candidate, they just need to remind you of his name and encourage you to go to the polls to purchase — I mean vote — for that person. It’s like the Coca-Cola ad, where they remind you of all the history and warm feelings you have with their product. It’s all “Let’s hold hands and drink a Coke.”

If you’re selling Pepsi to the Coke crowd, it’s a tougher sell. You’re going to have to spend even more money to get folks to change their buying habits. You have to tell them that Coke is terrible and drinking Pepsi is so much better for you. And you’re going to have to tell them MANY times over MANY days to get them to change their perception. But negative ads work. Just look at the change in tobacco use over the last generation.

Sad to say, but political campaigns are just about marketing. It’s the reason we pay so much attention to each politician’s bank account. Money buys marketing power, and good marketers can influence elections. It doesn’t always happen this way, but, more often than not, the politician with the most dollars win.

Most voters don’t track down the facts and policy positions on candidates. They don’t have time. And even fewer get the chance to personally meet a candidate and quiz them on issues. Instead, we suck up everything they dish out, go to the polls ignorant and hope for the best.

Democracy is a marketer’s dream!

Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is nanderson@newper.com, and her website is www.newper.com.

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