The Power of Advertising and The Advertising of Power

If you live somewhere in America where hotly contested elections are underway and watch any local local television stations, November 2nd can’t come soon enough. Why? Political advertising. And, it’s not the quantity of political advertising glutting the airwaves, although it’s become a tsunami. It’s the quality, stupid. (To paraphrase James Carville’s famous line.) And, due in no small part to the lack of restraint, guidelines and standards placed on their content, enabling political strategists to throw out these 30 second packages of swill and tripe.

Working in the Industry of Ideas since late last century I’ve created more than my share of television commercials… some very creative and entertaining, some not so much, for clients who have a very clear idea of what respect for rival brands meant.¬† They all had one thing in common… respect for the sensibilities of the viewer. Then there’s also something called broadcast standards.

In political advertising there appears to be none. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

The advertising industry gets enough heat about what we do without the help of ‘political advertising professionals’.

I’ll grant you that political advertising can often be creative, but I don’t mean that as a compliment.

And talk about trashing the competition! Better take back that overdue library book before you’re accused of “defrauding the government”!!! And that high school report on the McCarthy hearings!!!

Let’s, just for just a minute, apply the same (lack) of standards to a mainstream¬† American auto manufacturer’s advertising – here we go…

Fade up on an accident scene at a busy downtown intersection, ambulance lights brightly flash red, gold and blue in the background, the static sound of police radio messages cut in and out. In the foreground are two mangled hulks of automotive sheet metal. Cut to a series of tight shots of ambulances speeding down the road, twisted multi-car wrecks, hospital emergency rooms, rows of cemetery headstones.

The audio might sound something like this: “Toyota. They’ve played fast and loose with our safety. Ignoring the safety warnings. Lying to congress. Putting the American people in danger. Hundreds killed. Millions of cars recalled. When will it end? Protect the future of our children and the generations to come. Call Toyota. Tell them to stop selling dangerous cars and trucks… tell them the future of American families is at stake. I’m Henry Ford III and I approved this message because I want to make our roads a safe place again. And, oh yeah, for a limited time you can lease a for Ford Focus for only $198. a month. See your local Ford dealer for complete details.”

I wonder what Microsoft would have to say about Apple, Coke about Pepsi, Adidas about Nike, Bloomingdales about Nordstrom? And vice versa?

How would you apply political advertising standards to a television spot?