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Sock It to 'Em

Can a negative marketing campaign have positive results? Here's what to know before you strike the first blow.

This story appears in the November 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Mudslinging, name-calling, accusations and counterattacks. Sounds like a bad way to run a marketing campaign-particularly during a presidential race-but all those negative ads may have a more positive result than you think. What many of us call "negative" or "attack" ads are termed "comparative" ads by those in the industry, and the bottom line is that they appear to work.

"They're very effective," says Rick Farmer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, who has studied the impact of comparative ads. Farmer, other researchers and campaign consultants agree that negative ads are more memorable than positive ones, provided they reinforce a belief and remain relevant to the central issues of the marketing campaign. In political campaigns, comparative ads work because "people have a cynical view of politics and tend to believe the negative very quickly," says Farmer.

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