Magazine article Politics Magazine

So You Wanna Be a Player?

Magazine article Politics Magazine

So You Wanna Be a Player?

Article excerpt

Yeah, you and every other campaign consultant. But too many people lack the essential tools for success. In the first of a two-part series, we've asked some industry players to offer their smartest tips. Get these basics right, time after time, and you'll be on your way.

How to Go Negative in the 21st Century

By Robert W. Aho

"Hi, I'm a Mac. And I'm a PC."

How many times have we heard these words? For us political junkies who set our DVRs to record ads and not programs, Apple's pioneering ad campaign holds a valuable lesson in the brave new world of influencing voters.

The last time I looked, some stunned PC makers have seen a plunge in market share, while Apple revenues are way up. How many candidates do you know who would love to see increases like that in their next survey?

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What Apple did is a textbook example of how to go negative in the 21st century. They gave their product a personality. And if you thought branding a candidate was hard, try breathing life into 4GB of RAM, 1680x1050 pixels and a 2.6GHz processor. At the same time, they managed to brand their opponent "PC" as a stale has-been (read: "career politician"). And they did it all with a creative, light-hearted approach--unlike the ominous music and grainy photos so common in politics.

The next time your campaign decides to go negative, think of Apple's success and the new rules it reveals.

Creativity matters.

After years of cookie-cutter creative and low production quality, Americans have become predisposed to tuning out most political ads.

To do them right, forget what every other campaign is doing. Be unique. Take a risk. Air a spot that grabs attention. After all, if you don't have a voter's attention, how will you ever be able to persuade him or her?

As Apple is proving, never underestimate the power of subtlety and humor. Voters aren't stupid. They'll get it.

Stick to a simple message.

Too many times, political ad makers pack too many messages into a negative spot. Typically, it's a fast-paced hit-list that everyone loves. Everyone except the voter. They're left trying to pick through the political pinata that just exploded in their family room.

Keep your message focused and talk to voters in their language, not in Washington-ese.

Draw the comparison fairly.

In the time it takes to watch a negative ad, anyone with an Internet connection can find out how accurate you've been. If you're not communicating the information fair and square, expect pushback.

Every good negative ad has three attributes. It is well-documented and backed up by facts, not hearsay; relevant (to the voter, not you); and well-timed in the context of the campaign.

Whether it's Mac vs. PC, right vs. left, Republican vs. Democrat, the rules for going negative have changed.

Robert W. Aho is vice president of BrabenderCox, a GOP media firm.

How To Defend Yourself From Dirty Tricks

By Cathy Allen

You know they're coming: the negative attacks and slimy moves that give politics a bad name. Lately it's been rolling websites created to look like they're produced by your campaign, only they're renegade sites that tell lies or not-quite-truthful stories about the candidate.

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Your best defense against dirty tricks is knowing what to expect and being ready for anything. Here's how to guard against even the lowest blows:

* Pick a team of your most creative and objective people to come up with a process for handling absolutely anything that comes up.

* Practice that process on smaller problems or what looks like a dirty trick coming your way. Get used to handling trouble before you get dealt a big one.

* Manage the candidate's appearance and stress after a negative hit. Sometimes you need to avoid the camera; other times you need to be in front of it and very much in control of the situation. …

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