By Rashad Mulla
Negative presidential campaign advertisements are effective in forming and changing public opinion, according to Thom Mozloom, founder and owner of The M Network, a professional media planning and branding agency.
Broadcast live via video conference from Washington, D.C., Mozloom spoke to college students from the University of Denver, Pace University in Manhattan and George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. on Sept. 11. Mozloom said negative campaign advertisements, no matter their factual merits, are effective in shaping this election.
“The reason why you keep seeing negative ads or fear tactic ads come out is, quite simply, because they work,” said Mozloom,
George Mason guest instructor Steve Taylor pounced on to the question of truth 20 minutes into the broadcast.
“It’s depressing to learn I was right,” said Taylor, a former White House correspondent for ABC Radio. “It’s a lowest common denominator system. It basically proved lies work.”
Feedback from the George Mason students reflected Taylor’s perception of truth being looked over in campaign advertisements.
“I think truth should be important,” George Mason student Monica Block said during the live taping. “But I think when it comes to a 30-second ad, people aren’t really going to do their research.”
In response to Block’s comment, Mozloom said truth should be in the discussion, but politicians don’t deem it important.
“The politicians who use these spots (aren’t) fact-checking them,” Mozloom said. “There’s no repercussion to it.”
In an example of his assertion, Mozloom said Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain’s famed celebrity advertisement, in which McCain compared Sen. Barack Obama to Paris Hilton, was meant to counter the Democratic presidential nominee’s trip to Europe.
“That issue was exasperated by the Obama camp’s response,” Mozloom said. “They gave a response to this ad, which, for the life of me, I couldn’t fathom. You want that news cycle to change again as fast as possible.”
Instead, Paris Hilton came out with her own celebrity advertisement, Obama made one of his own, and the media covered the advertisement for three weeks. McCain’s strategy worked, and no semblance of fact was needed, Mozloom said.
“The time that was spent talking about (the advertisement) was far greater than the ad run itself and the money they paid for that ad,” Mozloom said.
C-SPAN political director and University of Denver professor Steve Scully asked Mozloom to analyze historical presidential advertisements, including “The Daisy Girl,” a 1964 spot by former president Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign when he was running for election against Republican opponent Barry Goldwater. This ad is one of the “hallmarks of negative advertising,” Scully said.
“It caused such a reaction, that they pulled it,” Mozloom said. “The fact that you and I are talking about this 40 years later has to qualify it as one of the greatest political ads of all time.”
After the presentation, Taylor reiterated the importance of advertising in presidential campaigns.
“There is a close connection between political advertising and political journalism,” Taylor said. “You can judge whether the campaigns are playing it safe or going on the attack. It shows the direction they think they are headed in.”