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Political Ads Ain’t Just Boring and Shrill – They’re Toxic for Brands

Trends and Insight 156 Add to collection

New research shows a poisonous ‘hangover’ effect for brands, says LBB's Laura Swinton

Political Ads Ain’t Just Boring and Shrill – They’re Toxic for Brands

Does anyone actually like political advertising? During a recent trip to Las Vegas I found myself bombarded with shouty attack ads with all the subtlety of, well, Las Vegas. They were aimed at every level of politics from District Attorney all the way up to the presidential race. Claim and counter claim, sinister voice overs, wild allegations – an overload of invective for someone who’s used to the (thankfully) more restrictive and staid state of affairs in the UK. Even if the United States wasn’t going through a political farce so outrageous that Armando Iannucci and the team behind Veep wouldn’t touch it, I’d still feel deeply sorry for Americans. They can’t watch the news or an episode of Modern Family without being shouted at.  No one likes being shouted at.

Campaign fundraising is such a huge part of the US political landscape, and while candidates are hoovering up every piece of media real estate they can afford, I can tell you where money isn’t being spent – creativity.

In the UK, the rules on spending and air time are incredibly restricted. Each of the main parties gets a set amount of time on each of the main terrestrial TV channels to set out their pitch – usually an earnest-but-dull moving brochure of vague promises. The Green Party, with the help of Creature of London, wisely decided to chase the laughs with their last two efforts in the hope of circumventing the broadcast restrictions by going viral online. Most of the time though, they’re ignorably dull. Even this week the Labour party got a slap on the wrist and a £20,000 fine for out-of-budget spending on (get this, non-Brits) a huge stone tablet of policy pledges.

But no such respite for the Americans. And the bad news for advertisers is that not only are political ads deeply irritating on a personal level, they are also a totally poisonous addition to the marketing media landscape. J. Walter Thompson New York has just released a study that shows that political ads sour viewers’ minds so completely that there’s a ‘hangover’ of negativity towards any ads that come directly afterwards. Ouch.

Here are the numbers – concentrate. Brand advertising is seen as 32% less relevant, 29% less entertaining and 27% less appealing when it follows a political ad. What’s more, brand reputation shrinks 34%, viewers’ perception of a product’s value declines by 32% and the perception of product quality lurches 24% down.

These are sobering statistics – particularly given the so-called ‘gold mine’ presented to media owners by the presidential debates. The surge in eyeballs immediately before, during and after the debates meant media owners could push up the price of ad slots duringthose primo windows. However this new research suggests that some of the non-political brands that decided to splash out during the debates might have been wasting their money.

Unfortunately, if this research does play out, the net result could be that brands hold back on their TV media spend until after the US election – and US telly addicts really will be faced with nothing but wall-to-wall political ads with nary a cola commercial for respite. We’re thinking of you.

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LBB Editorial, Tue, 25 Oct 2016 15:55:56 GMT