Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Using Controversial Ads to Generate Free Media

As we discussed on Monday, campaigns can generate press through both free media and paid advertisements. However, over the past few cycles campaigns have found ways to do both at the same time. Take this ad for example:

Notice at the bottom at about :05 that the ad cites the Christian Science Monitor on 7/10/08 as the source that Perriello supports same sex marriage. The paper did run that story on 7/10/08; however, on 7/11/08 it ran a correction saying that Perriello did not in fact support same sex marriage. The ad went live, and many Perriello supporters were furious and demanded that it be taken down. The controversy that the ad created won the ad additional free media and caused many more people to watch the ad. The ad was eventually suspended, but not until many more people had already seen it.

Over the past two cycles, several Democratic and Republican campaigns have run similar ads that have generated controversy (and even lawsuits). While many attacked the ads as dishonest or unethical, in every case the ads had a greater impact than the initial ad buy would have received.

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