Every election cycle brings out a slew of negative campaign ads. It’s sad, really. From my perspective, those ads usually make me dislike the candidate who has just been skewered; however, those ads don’t make me want to side with the candidate who brought out the “dirt gun” on his opponent, either. Pollsters argue that negative campaign ads are effective, and that’s why they continue.
Negativity is effective because it brings up doubt. What kind of doubts would enter your mind if you saw these kind of commercials?
- A restaurant chain slogan stating “Unlike the other guys, our employees wash their hands after using the bathroom.”
- An airline claiming “We crash less than the competition.”
- A dentist saying, “And remember, we sterilize our equipment!”
- A surgeon claiming, “Non-alcoholic since 2008.”
- A hospital asserting, “You are more likely to bring home YOUR OWN baby when you use our maternity ward.”
Going negative may weaken your opponent, but it does so at the cost of demonstrating your own weak character.
Next time you see a negative ad campaign, ask yourself what positive message you learn about the person who ends the commercial by saying “…and I approve this message.” In most cases, you’ll learn only that the sponsor of the ad is the lesser of two evils, or put another way, the least smelly bear in the cave.
At work, at home, in your neighborhood…the next time you hear someone criticize the actions of another, ask yourself: What does this tell me about the person who’s doing the criticizing? Most of the time, negative comments serve to take attention off the person doing the complaining and on to someone else.
If you have a positive message about the successes that you’ve accomplished, don’t be shy. Trot them out. But if your only claim of superiority is based on the warts on your opponent, it’s time for you to stand in front of the mirror to evaluate what you have to offer. An old colloquialism applies here: “Any jackass can kick down a barn but it takes a good carpenter to build one.” Choose to be a carpenter instead of a jackass.