Advertising We Can Do Without.

  • Badge - emptyIt happens late October every year. I don’t mean the World Series (I’m still in pain the Yankees were eliminated). It’s the avalanche of political advertising dominated by attack ads.  Those who create attack ads dig deep in their bag of claims that the other candidate is a terrorist sympathizer, wants to eliminate social security, has no regard for educating our children, wants to line the pockets of their friends, are against creating jobs, are “wrong” on every important issue, etc.


Attack political advertising demeans the advertising profession and treats the general public as if we are morons. Unfortunately we may be morons, since attack ads are generally effective and according to the Wesleyan Media Project with data from Kantar Media/CMAG, the majority of all House and Senate ads in 2010 are attack ads, solely about a candidate’s opponent. Furthermore, another fifth are comparative ads. By the way, despite the fact that my personal politics lean left, Democrat and Republican candidates share almost equally in this shame.

Here are two brazen (and unfortunately probably unrealistic) ideas for consideration on this subject:

1. Eliminate broadcast political advertising

My friends in broadcast media will hate this idea and they should. Advertising in the month of October is overrun with politicals, albeit bottom of the rate card revenue. Why pick on broadcast advertising and seek its elimination? For the same reason broadcast advertising of cigarettes was banned years ago—it works! Think I’m wrong? If you’re over 50, here’s a pop quiz. What does LSMFT stand for? And Winston tastes good like a _____ _____ You get my drift.

2. Charge a premium if the opponent or other party is named or inferred.

This idea my broadcast media friends would love. Create a premium of 3 times rate card for any political advertisment that directly or indirectly mentions the opponent, opposing party, or anything other than the candidate him/herself. Want to slander someone and make wild claims? Go ahead, but you gotta pay up.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom to lie, distort and defame. That’s what the majority of political advertising is. I have worked in marketing for more than 35 years and I am proud of the profession. I also know that product claims for business advertising need to be well substantiated, and legal clearance is always needed for competitive advertising.

I know my  ideas have their own issues. But why are politicians allowed to lie, deceive, and defame in their own interest? Maybe it’s because we think so little of politicians’ integrity in the first place, and expect so little of our candidates, that they take just take every opportunity to prove our suspicions correct. (Guess you can tell I never had interest in going into politics)

What do you think?

More Strumings


  1. Rodger Gottlieb says:

    I agree completely. I don’t know what is more shameful, those that perpetuate this type of advertising or we as a society that enable and encourage it by our collective stupidity.

  2. Hi Lonnie,

    I don’t know anyone that likes political advertising, except maybe the candidates. You are right, it just keeps getting less and less about their platforms and more about how much mud they can sling at their opponents.

    Like most commercials that I have no interest in, I have learned to tune them out for flip the channel.

    A 3xs rate card would most likely eliminate all but the big guns and ultimately cut down on station revenue. It also creates a disproportionate amount of opportunity on the side of the deep pockets and all but assure the small grass roots candidates little or no air time.

    The bigger question is why we allow these candidates to libel and slander their opponents. There needs to be a non-bias fact finding researcher committee to approve each ad before airing…and that can come out of the candidates pockets.

    Just my thoughts…

  3. Marianne Pontillo says:

    The idea of banishing political ads occurred to me about a month ago!
    They serve no purpose. People tune them out. Instead, the candidates should appear on a show, not in a debate, but with a non-partisan bonafide news person asking the same questions, in turn, to each candidate. And borrowing a tact from the old Miss America Pageant days, the other candidates don’t hear the question until it is put to them. Let’s compare apples to apples! That’s the only we citizens will hear –and understand– what each candidate stands for. Isn’t that our right?? And by removing the “debate” forum, we remove the “canned rhetoric” and personal attacks.
    “A return to sanity,” thank Jon Stewart for coining that phrase. It is so overdue. And I know I will not be alone cringing when the total bill for these useless negative political ads is made public. Imagine how many people could have been fed, schools renovated, teachers and firefighters rehired and homes, saved. A return to sanity, indeed.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, there is no sanity to the onslaught on negativity of lies coming from both parties. Our country is not as strong as it had been economically or idealogically. One would have hoped this is the time to bring out the best in us, not the worst.

  4. Unfortunately, I am a free speech advocate. I think eliminating political ads, while a nice idea, is contrary to what this country stands for. Further, discriminating against certain kinds of speech and charging more is probably unconstitutional, despite the fact that it is a really good idea. My son, who is a political advertising expert ( says that negative ads actually work. I am not sure I agree, but he has the data to support that position. I honestly believe that the largely positive advertising which we have seen – Blumenthal in Connecticut and Cuomo in NY are far more effective, as their poll numbers indicate. But maybe if one is ahead in the polls enables a candidate to be positive in the first place. I, for one, am much more interested to see what any candidate stands for. Paul Gumbinner

    • Lonny Strum says:

      I’m with you on free speach. But alas “free” does not mean free to lie, particularly on public airwaves. Your son is right. Negative ads work. There’s logic to that. You sling mud, make outrageously claims, use the most grainy, unflattering photos of the opponent you can find. It makes an impression. We need to reset political advertising somehow because the current system isn’t working.

  5. Richard Binswanger says:


    Negative Political ads fascinate me… They are like Junk mail… Nobody admits to being influenced by them, but the increase in their number and the amount of “over the top” sentiments, means they work with somebody.

    Good ones work for me.

    ” They are the car wrecks of Nascar”. I don’t like to say I watch them, but the good ones and even some of the really bad ones, well I just can’t take my eyes off them.. if the alterantive is more “C-spam like vapidity, this is more fun… I just wish they would be more clever or thoughtful, Gerry Briown’s ads parsing Meg Whitman parroting Arnold Schwarzenegger was brilliant, so was the ad on Meg Whitman saying how Great California was 30 years ago when Gerry Brown was Governor.
    So you political ad men. don’t lie to me… Don’t trump things up so badly that that ther is no credibility in your statements, Stop using overtly bad pictures of your opponents, stop using the eerie music too, but if you can find an intelligent way to unmask a candidate’s weakness, go ahead, but do so in a way that makes me laugh think, and does not make me question your integrity and seems fair.

  6. Dan Ditzler says:

    There is considerable historical precedent for political attack advertising:

    I agree that free speech is not freedom to make up your own facts. And one man’s lie is another man’s gross exaggeration.

    But blunt on-target negative ads can be brutally honest and brutally effective.

    For that reason, I don’t think we’ll ever see political advertising go away.

    We can only hope that journalists begin doing a better job of fact checking charges made in political ads and holding candidates’ feet to the fire when they are baseless or a total reach. There isn’t much shame in politics. Unfortunately, as nasty as political ads have become, fewer good people are encouraged to go into politics and subject themselves to abuse.

  7. Rebekah says:

    I have a standing offer on the table – I don’t care what party or platform a candidate holds. If they will refrain from this mud-slinging garbage I will vote for them. So far, no takers…

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