How & When to Use Negative Advertisements

By Maverick Steffen | Daily Marketing Advice

Negative advertising can essentially be broken down into 2 categories listed below.

You'll notice I labeled these both with the keyword 'political' because these types of ads are predominantly used by political campaigns for the purpose of pulling political support away from competitors while pushing political support toward the antagonist.

Types of Negative Advertisements

  1. Political Pull Ads: Advertising the negative aspect of a competitor's product/benefit. I call them 'political pull ads' because these tactics are mainly aimed at pulling support away from the competition.
  2. Political Push Ads: Advertising the negative aspect of not choosing your product benefit.

Today I would like to go over political pull ads.

Political Pull Ads

Political Pull Ads are effective when a large portion of your target market is subscribing to your competitor; however, you can flip the tables and introduce a benefit (albeit negative) aspect of your competitor's product and benefit to your target market.

The idea here is to pull support away from your competition by featuring a negative aspect of their product/benefit while introducing them to your message.

Because of the very nature of this approach, you want to be sure to include a 2 pronged message with the first prong duretly  negatively addressing the product/benefit of your competition, while the second prong demonstrates your product/benefit is a positively alternate light.For example:

"Mitt Romney is going to reward companies who outsource labor overseas. President Obama care about the middle class and wants to bring American jobs back"

As you can see, a claim is made about a political product, Mitt Romney, which exacts a benefit, outsourced labor.

Take a look at this campaign advertisement for President Obama:

Now, the only thing that is missing from this message is the second prong of the advertisement which introduces the antagonistic product, President Obama, as someone who will not outsource labor, the benefit.

For business, the best approach to minimize legal action stemming from your competition is to disguise your competitor and/or their product as a generic competitive archetype.

For example:

"We are the only Music Lesson shop in Atlantic County who screens our instructors for criminal records."

"Our coffee shops use only organic beans gown from American farmers."

"Or Philadelphia marketing agency has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, while our competitors have been featured in..."


However, larger companies with larger legal budgets are respectively more direct and explicit:

"Royal Doulton, the china of Stoke-on-Trent, England vs. Lennox, the china of Pomona, New Jersey"

Royal Doulton, the china of Stoke-on-Trent, England vs. Lennox, the china of Pomona, New Jersey

Tylenol: “For millions who should not take Aspirin.” (implicitly mentioning a controversy in which Aspirin was allegedly causing stomach ulcers)


"In a blind taste test, more people chose New Coke over Pepsi"


Now, as you can see, the negative and positive aspects of the political pull ad can intersect and overlap; however, the important thing for business is NOT mentioning your competitor directly unless they were recently featured as a result of specific negligence.

However, I would avoid that as well if you have anything less than a 7-figure legal retainer.

Using negative ads might seem... 'negative' for lack of a better word, but what you are really doing educating your target market about a certain aspect of their product/service provider they may not have known about.


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