Okay, I was going to use this post as a Halloween rant at the current batch of frighteningly bad ads. And frankly, if I hear the obnoxious whooping of that “witch in the broom factory” spot for Geico one more time, I might go Freddy Krueger myself.
But on a deeper level, I’m wondering if the incredibly strident campaign ads are the ones that are doing REAL damage in a way we might not even realize. Plenty has been written about negative campaigning from the general “ain’t it awful” perspective (and credit to my old friend Mike Phillips, wherever he is, for planting that phrase in my head).
But what strikes me is that every two or four years, we suspend even our minimal expectations of advertising and tolerate all kinds of crap that would be met with all kinds of challenges and lawsuits if any company tried it against another. But we just shake our heads and say “yeah, well, that’s what they do.”
Is that REALLY our only answer? We often cite studies about how exposure to violent movies and video games desensitizes kids to violence. (Some people argue with that, predictably, but from what I’ve seen it’s fact, case closed.) So how can this political assault on our collective senses not have the same affect in diminishing, even further, the public’s respect for advertising in any form?
TV spots are certainly the focus here. Information is constantly misrepresented and deftly misapplied to paint the ugliest picture possible of the opponent. Perhaps the 23 times the incumbent missed votes was out of 3000, and the lowest absentee rate in the legislature, but you won’t hear that part. And oh, the production value – don’t you love the dour, black-and-white stills of the downcast incumbent positioned against the warm, full-color footage of the vibrant challenger?
Do they think we’re stupid? Are we?
Even yard signs. “Take back our country.” We are not a troubled, rebellion-plagued country where some sort of military coupe put anyone in power. It’s a democracy. Regardless of your politics, WE voted in the current officeholders, and we can vote them out again. But “take back” is an ignorant and divisive mantra, rhetoric more appropriate for thuggish gangs than allegedly civil people who pretend to care about their country. (If you really do, the most concrete way to show it is to go rip that yard sign out of your lawn and replace it with an intelligent reason to vote for your favorite.)
I don’t know WHAT we can do about it. I’m open to suggestions. But those of us with a vested interest in the advertising business should care plenty. Why do we allow ham-fisted politicians to lower the credibility and respect for our livelihood even further when in a month they won’t care or pay any attention? We deserve better as professionals. And we certainly deserve better as citizens.