Thursday, February 24, 2011

Poltical Attack Ads and Polls, and a Guest Blogger

The Globe & Mail recently released an article titled "Tory attack ads pack a punch that leaves Liberals reeling". The article describes recent polls which show the Conservatives making gains and Liberals dropping, ostensibly due to recent attack ads aimed at Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. Here is one of the ads in question, which I'm sure most have seen.

First off, this is not a political blog. So I am going to allow my friend Nathan Nagy from "Tacking into the Blue" summarize the current political climate (full post here):

Canadians would appear to be in a pessimistic mood as of late. Perhaps the mood of the nation can be attributed to the economy, gas prices or the never-ending winter. Whatever the case may be, the current Tory attack ads seem to be working. Canadians, unlike our Americans neighbours, have historically reacted negatively to political attack ads, however the Tories have properly sensed the pulse of the nation. I would [also] mention that political polls are almost never correct. There are so many variables to consider that skew the final data. The time of day, age category, and region of those asked, all play into the final results of political polling.

So why are these particular ads seemingly succeeding where historically they have failed here in Canada? The Globe makes an astute point that they are the only political ads on TV right now since we are not in election season (yet). Thus, it is more like an infomercial than a political debate. What I think (hope?) Canadians object to, historically, is the devolution of the discourse when every party joins in on attack ads. I hope that as the next generation matures, and ideally starts voting more, they will continue to reject attack ads and politicians will react to this.

As for these particular ads themselves, I believe they miss their mark. First off, the quality is amateurish which is odd (unless the Tories are making a point of not spending money, I suppose). Even the complaints themselves do not really resonate (oh no, not a Harvard education!). The Conservatives have put out some standard political ads, and hopefully come election season these are the only kinds we'll see, but I won't hold my breath. Even these ads themselves have higher production values. As with corporate ads, you want "positive" associations with your brand, rather than negative ones.


  1. Poor quality and cheap pens. Subliminal messaging much?

  2. Interesting read. While I am a political junkie myself, there is some truth to the fact that negative ads work.

    Granted, they are the only political ads on the air at the moment, they have hacked away Iggy's credibility. If you look at this editorial from the Post in 2009, the attack ads do what the "faint hearted media" will not.

    As I said, great read and great guest blog quote by Nathan.

  3. I think attack ads do work to some degree. If they didn’t, why would political campaigns spend money on creating attack ads?
    I hope people reject and disregard attack ads, but I think politicians will continue to use attack ads if they feel they are getting results.

  4. One (unfortunate) reason why I think attack ads continue to enjoy a degree of success is because honestly, I think that people are sometimes just too damn lazy to do their own research into the truthfulness about what is being said in the ad itself - voter apathy at its finest.

    I fear that viewers listen to what is said in the ad, take it at face value and make their judgment of the recipient of the attack based on what they hear.

    As much as I also despise attack ads, one silver lining that I suppose exists is that at least we're not living in the States where attack ads quickly morph from policy criticisms to personal and underhanded smear tactics. If, however, Canadian attack ad campaigns begin to mirror the strategies imposed south of the border, I can't help but expect a further decline in our voter turnout come election time.