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Friday, October 12, 2012

Negative Commercial Advertising

At this time of year, there are always complaints about politicians' negative ads.  I never bought into these complaints; it seemed to me that negative ads tended to be more useful than positive ones.  An ad claiming that a candidate was soft on crime or was in the pocket of big business was at least likely to convey some information about ideology.  An ad claiming that a candidate had good character, however, tended to be worthless to me because anyone can claim to have good personal qualities.

But whatever the merits of negative political ads, I am intrigued by the negative commercial ads that I have seen lately.  Take, for example, Samsung's ad that's critical of the iPhone.  One of the messages of the ad is that young people shouldn't want the iPhone -- simply because middle-aged people do want it.  Similarly, the "not for women" softdrink campaign and the Miller Lite "man up" ads appeal to men to buy the products strictly because women (or effeminate men) aren't supposed to like them.

This is different from products that are meant to appeal to certain groups.  Dove's Men + Care, for example, might appeal to men because it lacks the flowery perfume that marks some other soaps.  These newer products, by contrast, are being promoted strictly by denigrating other groups of potential purchasers.

Am I right in thinking that this represents a new development?  I don't recall ad campaigns exactly like these, though it might be simply a variation on the don't-trust-anyone-over-30 mantra from the 60s.  Does it say something about modern culture that commercial companies now think they can make more money with divisive ads than by appealing to all demographics?

Posted by Michael Dimino on October 12, 2012 at 09:28 PM in Culture | Permalink


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