Negative advertising: A definition –

Throughout the area of research, different definitions of negative advertising and marketing are suggested. I have chosen to go with the definition by Bruce Pinkleton (1997). He suggests three types of negative advertising. I have chosen to broaden this theory to cover not only advertising but all negative communication.

Attack advertising contains an aggressive, one-sided assault, designed to draw attention to an opponent’s weaknesses in either character or issue. “Attack” advertising and “negative” advertising often are used interchangeably, but attack advertising also represents the most malicious form of negative advertising.

Comparative advertising identifies a competing candidate for purposes of imputing inferiority and degrading prospective voters’ perceptions of the targeted candidate to the advantage of the sponsoring candidate. Generally, comparative messages use candidates’ records, experience, or issue positions to communicate negative information about the target of the advertising to voters. There are two subsets of comparative advertising:

  • Direct comparative advertising uses a two-sided message to identify the targeted candidate and contrast specific aspects of the candidates’ records, experience, or issue positions. The result is to position the sponsoring candidate as the obvious, superior choice.
  • Implied comparative advertising is one-sided in that it does not mention the targeted candidate specifically. Instead, such advertising draws the audience into making candidate comparisons based on their knowledge of key campaign issues and their interpretation of the advertising message.

Negative advertising directly assaults a targeted candidate for broken promises, a poor voting record, public misstatements, and the like. Such advertising often is referred to as “mudslinging”. Researchers generally note two subsets of negative advertising:

  • Negative Issue advertising cites a candidate’s position on specific issues or items of public policy. Such advertising may contain information about an opponent’s political record, voting record, issue stands, and criminal record.
  • Negative image advertising cites a candidate’s personal characteristics or traits without addressing specific issue positions. Such advertising may contain information about opponents’ medical history, personal life, religion, sex life, or family members.

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