The controversial anti-abortion Superbowl ad by Focus On the Family was well-done and so underplayed that even the liberal Salon Web site says, what’s the big deal? Actually, you have to go to the fotf.org Web site that it pitched by the commercial to get the full, God-filled, anti-abortion pitch.
That is why I’m so concerned, as I previously blogged, about the Supreme Court decision that allows corporations (I know, Focus is a non-profit) to advertise in political campaigns. The argument for complacency is that if corporations are too heavy-handed, they will actually help the candidate they oppose.
Guess what? Corporations hire top talent, and they’re marketing people are good. We can expect, for the most part, they will get their money’s worth from the ads they run.
Two things I would expect:
1. Few ads by companies that sell to consumers. They don’t want to be controversial and offend customers (though Exxon Mobil doesn’t seem afraid of that). I expect corporations that sell business-to-business to be more active, since they are shielded from consumer opinion.
2. More negative ads. Positive ads from a corporation lauding a candidate will be suspect. Negative ads will work. Typically, negative ads soil both parties–the candidate being attacked and the organization doing the attacking. If the corporation is shielded from public opinion, it won’t care, and the candidate it actually supports has plausible deniability and can truthfully claim he or she had nothing to do with the attack ad.
Advertisements typically evoke emotions, not rational thoughts. This puts those who privilege the rational style of communication at quite a disadvantage.
Yes, if all you’re interested in is consuming your Doritos without wanting to vomit, the ad was completely inoffensive. But if you’re concerned about the ability of the extreme right-wing to outmarket progressives, I think you should be very, very concerned. I believe those commenters who think Focus wasted their money because they didn’t hit viewers over the head with blood-spattered images of aborted fetuses are mistaken.