US election spend tops $300m; result a big fat zero. Both Bush and Kerry should be gutted at the finding that their $300m adspend has bought them nothing. But what could be more naïve than following a popular, yet lazy strategy, that has tended to fail more times than it’s succeeded.
That strategy is, of course, the negative ad campaign. (And it doesn’t matter if Bush supporters started it with a look at Kerry’s war record or Michael Moore did it.) It’s popular (and self indulgent) because we all like a bit of knockabout with our rivals and politicos can’t resist revealing ‘truths’ about each other. But say McDonalds ran a ‘truth about Burger King’ campaign and BK hit back with the ‘truth about McDonald’s’. The most likely winner would be KFC. Outside of politics marketers concentrate on positive reasons to buy and politicians need to learn from that.
For the politically active, politics is life and few understand that those outside their world live to a different beat (and they need to recognise that the non-political aren’t stupid). As Michael Wolff told the FT here, (back in May when positive European campaigns were promised, but didn’t happen); ‘They (the main political parties) talk to themselves and advertise at the other party. It all goes swirling by most people.’
If Bush gives America half a dozen reasons not to vote Kerry and Kerry gives America half a dozen reasons not to vote Bush, all America’s left with is a dozen reasons not to vote. And on this side of the Atlantic it’s what drives people to new whacko parties like UKIP/BNP.