Candidates pour vast sums of money into media ads, making them the chief tool for building their "brand," and yet a disturbing number ultimately resort to advertising at its worst: Attack ads so corrosive they poison the "civic marketplace" by encouraging a general distrust of office seekers and a "why bother" attitude about voting.
The best campaign ads will do what all good advertising does: Build broad interest in the product category and give consumers reasons to choose a particular brand. Candidates need to differentiate themselves from their rivals, just like brands on the store shelf, and give voters a clear reason to "buy." Advertising is the tool for doing it.
It's good to see top ad professionals, such as former Young & Rubicam chief Alex Kroll and former Ad Council President Ruth Wooden, among the advertising advisers to presidential candidates. But the worst political ad abuses usually occur in the slugging matches for seats in Congress or for key state offices. Who will champion good advertising in those contests?
Better politics won't just happen; it's the same for political advertising. This coming election year, let those in advertising raise more voices for better ads-whether they speak from inside a candidate's camp or united as concerned citizens through their local ad groups. It's a new century, after all. We should work for something better.