Degrees of Dishonesty?

The nice thing about democracy, from a marketer’s point of view, is that it makes brand ads look good. Comparatively good, that is. A survey conducted for Adweek by Alden & Associates Marketing Research of Hermosa Beach, Calif., asked respondents whether they find political ads or brand ads more honest. In the sort of landslide that used to grace Soviet-bloc elections, 92 percent gave brand ads more credence. Lest you see this as a vote of confidence in nonpolitical ads, note another of the findings: 63 percent don’t think advertising generally tells the truth. Since advertising in general is held in such low regard, how do political ads manage to look uniquely implausible? The problem might lie with their main target audience: undecided voters. Are these people undecided because they’re wrestling with nuances in candidates’ position papers? No. A study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center says undecideds are the “most likely to get candidates’ positions wrong.” They’re undecided because they’re not very interested—much as you may be undecided between Coke and Pepsi if you don’t drink cola. Soft-drink spots would look weirdly unreal, too, if they catered to the concerns of people who don’t drink the stuff.