Service of Negative Marketing

June 23rd, 2014

Categories: Advertising, Communications, Marketing, Negativity, Politics, Uncategorized

elephant donkey fighting

I missed the class on the effectiveness of negative advertising which serves politicians so well even though these ads are counterintuitive. Given 30 or 60 seconds to state your case–at major cost–you’d think you’d want to tout a candidate’s great ideas, victories and accomplishments. Positive messages these days would  no doubt result in negative polling figures and goodness knows what outcome on election day.

Politicians aren’t alone.

They lived commercialHave you seen the “They Lived” automotive TV commercial? It shows a series of cars so smooshed and flattened in car accidents that they look as though they were made of the cheapest tin can material. Someone yells “They Lived” at the worker, in hardhat, who is motioning the crane holding a metal heap that once was a car into a big pile of the same, referring to the passengers. Brrrrr—gives me the shivers.

I just got off the phone with a stranger who said, “Hiya Jeanne, this is Mike Morrow from Merrill Lynch.” I thanked Mike for calling, told him I was on deadline and someone was waiting for me with which he slammed down the phone or clicked off the connection, racing to the next patsy. Result: Bad taste in my mouth. Too bad he spoke so clearly. I can hardly understand most telemarketers. A “sorry,” would have been nice.

wold cup logo USWhat about the US World Cup team coach Jurgen Klinsmann who announced, before the games, that his team wasn’t ready to win?

And then there’s CheapOair. The name makes me want to avoid everything to do with the online Internet travel agency. I’d anticipate shoddy service from them and goodness knows what from their travel partners. They might be the most responsible travel agency on the Internet and many might consider the name of this company a hoot but travel is serious business. I’m a fan of discounts and great prices, but cheap? Not so much.

Do you respond in a positive way to negative marketing? Why is it so effective? Have you noticed other examples?


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8 Responses to “Service of Negative Marketing”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    I do not respond positively to negative marketing. I agree wholeheartedly with your observations that it would seem much more productive to use your limited advertising time to state what you have to offer rather than call attention to your opponent even by referring to his defects.

    I am at a loss to understand what the automobile advertisement you describe is trying to convey unless it is fear of driving or traveling by automobile. In general our advertisements, especially on television are incredibly boring, humorless, tasteless, patronizing, corny and vulgar. They are totally devoid of charm and appeal, and most of the time I cannot understand what those responsible for producing them were thinking.

    I don’t have high expectation for judicious or profound statements from coaches. That may just reflect a lack of in depth interest in sports figures or a personal cynicism about their egos.

    The irritating false camaraderie of first-name cold calls for investments and marketing as well as crude names for companies show very limited judgment and sensitivity as well as incredibly bad taste. As so often is the case our mass marketing could think about less as more.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The auto advert is trying to tell you that the car is so well built that the passengers lived in spite of a horrendeous crash. My mind jumps to “maybe they lived, but will they ever walk or think again….?” Years ago highway depts. would place smooshed cars on roads with signs “REMEMBER TO WEAR YOUR SEATBELT” and they were effective because they didn’t want you to end up dead. They were selling safety, not cars.

    I don’t follow sports but it would seem to me that telling the world that your team’s terrific would be a motivator for the players….unless the coach wanted to grab headlines which at the time he did!

  3. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    On Facebook, Donna Boyle Schwartz wrote: They think that they are being “ironic” and will therefore appeal to the “hipster” crowd….

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    That’s true about CheapOAir. I got a chuckle about the moving company “Mother Truckers” when I first heard it. It’s something about the word cheap that gets me.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    When a politician can’t stand on his own merit, and attracts attention by bashing the opponent, he loses my vote. If both engage in this activity, I may vote for a maverick or for no one .

    Negative advertising does not speak well for a product and/or service, since it would appear as if there is little to commend it. The consumer may profit by ignoring smears and making choices based on reliable recommendations or personal experience.

  6. jpm Said:

    I’ve got a chicken and egg question: Which came first, the negative ads or the culture which can be easily reached by them?

    Could it be that the incessant American drumbeat to consume has so cheapened our thought processes that we are unhappy unless something sensational, like rape, murder or multiple car crashes is going on? (If you ask the man in the street who Warren G. Harding was, one in a hundred will know, and if he does, because the way we now view life, he’ll tell you about his mistresses, the Tea Pot Dome scandal and not much else. More may remember John F. Kennedy, but I’ll bet mostly because he was assassinated and a womanizer.)

    I’m not sure I like nasty huckstering that much less than any other kind of promoting, but I am sure that none of it is helping improve the quality of our lives and the decency of our society.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m with you on the negative political ads. During a debate, it’s appropriate to address the flaws in the opponent’s views and previous slipups but not in marketing materials and in commercials.

    The implication of the auto commercial is that in no other vehicle would passengers and drivers live which the agency that dreamed it up might argue is a positive point. As Martha pointed out, it reminds me of something we all know: That a car is a dangerous convenience. In fact, I just had a flash: The approach of “They Lived” is a bit like the commercials for medicines that will relieve your heartburn but at the same time put you at risk of cancer, heart or kidney failure and worse

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Good question which I can’t answer for sure but think you–and Donna who wrote that marketers are trying to reach the “hipster” crowd–are on the right track. We are anesthetized and hypnotized by so many hands waving at us to tell us we can’t live without tons of stuff that to be heard, marketers feel they must be outrageous. We’re thinking/writing about them, aren’t we?

    One thing I appreciate about commercials the more I watch PBS is that I welcome them when I need to wash a few dishes or grab a glass of seltzer or a bag of cookies and I don’t want to miss something. At that point I don’t care what the hawkers are showing me as I can neither hear nor see it.

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