Advertising and Politics: An Unholy Alliance

I just got back from the Chicago Southland Regional Consensus Luncheon where candidates for a state-wide seat debated their positions and experience. This is not about those candidates.
At my table sat two college students, fresh and eager and engaged. They are involved in another candidate’s campaign, someone running for an entirely different seat. They did not want to make themselves known as they informed us they were really on a recognizance mission. The young men said that a debate this early in the campaign is unusual and the reason is simple: either side may make a mistake that the other side – and the media – will run with for the next four months. For them, it was about missteps and not about information.
Are you feeling kind of manipulated already? I did.
As an advertising professional, I’m about to make a statement many may consider traitorous to my industry: Political advertising should be severely regulated or perhaps outlawed.
In any paid printed or broadcast material, the only place an opposing candidate’s name should be mentioned is in small print on the bottom and that should read “John Doe is running against Jane Does for your (insert name of seat here).” And that’s IT. Any other reference to their opponent in any way, shape or form should be strictly prohibited.
You see, candidates and their positions, attitudes and beliefs don’t win campaigns. The better-funded marketing team, whoever has the most dollars to spend, is what defines and determines the winner. Who has the “cleverest” campaign – especially cast with a negative message –  seems to shape voter response much more solidly and surely than all the intelligent debates for months.
I believe it’s time voters weren’t spoon fed manipulations, half-truths and “missteps” to mold their thoughts into what the guy with the most money wants them to think. It’s time voters tuned into debates and meaningful conversations to make a truly informed decision – whichever side of the fence they land.
As a citizen, I want to know what my candidate is going to do to balance the budget while giving me a certain quality of life. As a citizen, I want to hear what makes that candidate the right choice. I don’t want to hear how the opponent is a lying, cheating ding dong who will take us into a financial nosedive while frequenting strip clubs and paying for it with my tax dollars.
Ethical marketing should be about benefits; how a product or service will help someone in ways big and small. It shouldn’t be about bashing your competition; it should be about building up your own brand.
I love marketing, I love advertising. I love communicating the products and services businesses are offering and how people can benefit from them. I love knowing that these businesses are more profitable and successful because, in a small way, I’ve helped. I believe in doing it positively, with integrity and ethics.
If candidates won’t do that of their own accord, I’d like to see ethics legislation and ramifications for breaking those ethics. Wouldn’t you?