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Role of advertising in Political Campaigns

Advertising has become a central feature in the society due to its great significance in informing people about a product or an idea. Advertising also tries to persuade people to give a high value to what is being advertised. According to Brierley (Brierley, 2002), advertising is very vital in marketing products. In political campaigns, political advertising has continued to gain popularity and it has become a critical campaigning strategy by enabling the political leaders to convince those who support them on the importance of their political agenda.

Political advertising occurs in leadership systems where political power is contested for through an election. Barry (Barry, 1993) states that political parties and leaders to present themselves to the people through the mass media through political advertisements There is need for political advertising to promote responsibility in leaders and parties. The importance of elections has made political advertising very important due to the fluctuating and unstable political behavior of the voters.

One major characteristic of political advertising is that the content is not subjected to the strict rules that are applied in commercial advertising. The modern state of political advertising continues to raise concerns within the advertising field and in this paper; the arguments that favor the use of advertising in political campaigning will be presented. The suggested negative social, democratic, and cultural impacts of political advertising will also be discussed. Discussion Why advertising is important in Political Campaigns

One important role of advertising in political campaigning is that it promotes comparative advertising. Dalton (Dalton, 2002) asserts that this form of advertising assists voters or citizens to compare the political agenda of the political leaders so that they are able to make a decision to vote for the leaders with the best political agenda. During the political campaigns, advertisers develop adverts that tend to compare one political idea with the other. In this case, advertisers provide the consumers or voters with the advantages or disadvantages of the political ideologies that are supported by different political leaders.

Political advertisements mention the competitors, their ideas, and why the competitors’ agenda is shortcoming. The comparison of political ideas that characterizes political advertising becomes beneficial to voters when it informs and improves the voters’ knowledge about what the leaders anticipate do to improve the current situation. Therefore, advertising imparts political knowledge on voters so that they are able to make sound decisions on the best leader to elect . This can be attributed to comparative advertising in political campaigns which offers credible information to voters and enlightens them about various political issues.

The opposing candidate performance and program may be criticized and ridiculed in adverts. For instance, during the United States presidential election campaigns, Rebublican political advertisements criticized Obama’s policies. According to the weblink (www. president-obama. org/barack-obama-urged-to-strike-back-over-mccains-personal-attack-adverts), Republican John McCain was dismissed Obama’s political ideas. Advertising in political campaigns is significant in opposing poor leadership and corruption.

This assists the voters to initiate changes in leadership especially if political leaders fail to deliver good leadership. Sayre (Sayre, 1994) states that because political adverts tend to criticize the performance and programs that have been implemented but have failed to assist citizens, voters are able to realize that there is need to transform the society through responsible and good leadership in a country . When advertisements condemn poor leadership and encourage voters to take responsibility and vote for good leaders, they impact positively on the society as well as the economy of a nation.

By highlighting the weaknesses of a leader who has failed to bring about positive change, advertisements assist the voters to appreciate that they have an important role to play in electing the best political leaders. Advertising in political campaigns therefore condemns poor leadership and encourages citizens to replace this kind of leadership with good political leaders. For instance, advertising during the recent United States presidential campaigns criticized the leadership of President George Bush in relation to his foreign policy.

One particular issue that was criticized about Bush’s leadership was the invasion of Iraq by the US troops. President Obama’s advertisements during the US political campaigns criticized the Bush administration policies and emphasized on the possibility of McCain to embrace similar policies if elected as president. President George W. Bush administration failed to get the support of a large number of the American citizens due to the military action it chose to take in solving conflicts between the US and other nations.

The Democrats advertisements which emphasized on the need to vote for “change” are considered to have contributed to President Obama’s victory during the elections. Advertisements in political campaigns sensitize the voters on the importance of voting. When people are disappointed with political leaders that they elected, there is need to elect new leaders who are expected to bring positive change in governance. However, some voters or citizens may not vote when they fail to realize the significance of their vote in putting into place good governance.

Several factors that may motivate citizens not to vote include illiteracy, ignorance or failure to appreciate the importance of voting. Advertisements that are used by various political leaders tend to encourage their supporters to vote by sensitizing them on the role that each citizen has in ensuring there is good governance in a country. In efforts to garner votes, mobilizing the people through advertisements to vote is effective in enabling the voters to acknowledge that their vote counts. For instance, in South Africa, the state provides funds to the political parties to use in their efforts to garner support from the voters.

The Independent Electoral commission in South Africa distributes the funds to the various political parties. One of the roles that the political parties’ funds play is to motivate the people to vote . This promotes democracy and enables South Africans to actively participate in electing their leaders. Due to the negativity and criticism witnessed as political leaders try to disapprove each other, advertisements during political campaigns allow the political leaders to defend themselves against allegations about them that may to false or misinterpreted.

This form of advertising becomes defensive as political leaders try to respond to the negative advertising done by an opponent against them. This occurs due to the lack of strict rules and a code of ethics that can be applied to control the content of the advertisements. Political advertisements are perceived to contain unsubstantiated and inaccurate information and this provides room for political leaders to provide misleading and false claims about their opponents. It becomes necessary for a leader who has been criticized to defend him or her by providing the correct information about issues that were earlier misinterpreted.

To do this, a political party or leader develops an advert to counter false and misleading claims and enables the political leaders or parties to provide accurate information about the policies or ideas that they stand for. Advertisements used during political campaigns create excitement in citizens by informing voters about the values that are supported by different political parties. Furthermore; advertising allows the political parties to make their symbols or colors popular with the people.

According to Sayre(Sayre,1994), in Hungary, political advertising has been important in informing people about the values of the various political parties since they connect the values with national importance This has been significant in promoting an understanding of Hungary’s culture. All over the world, political campaigns are characterized by the use of party colours and symbols in producing campaign materials. These materials are then used in political events and campaigns. The pictures and photographs of the party leaders are displayed.

This plays a very significant role during the Election Day because the party symbols, colors, and photographs of the political leaders assist the voters to identify a leader or party they would like to elect on the ballot paper. Political advertising therefore offers civic education to the voters. Because electoral bodies in many nations that hold democratic elections must present the colors and photographs of political leaders on ballot papers, advertisements that make voters conversant with the party symbols and colors assist voters to elect the right party or leader.

For citizens, advertisements during political campaigns allow them to communicate with the political leaders since the leaders are able to address the questions and fears expressed by their supporters or opponents. For example, Brown and Stayman (Brown and Stayman, 1992) hold the opinion that television advertisements and online adverts play a critical role in educating and sensitizing voters on party policies and manifestos. The party manifestos and promises made by political leaders during campaigns through advertisements guide the leaders in addressing critical issues that affect the voters once they assume office.

Despite the positive impact of advertising in political campaigning, suggestions have been given to show that political advertising has negative cultural, social and democratic impacts. The negative social, democratic and cultural impacts of political advertising Social impacts One negative impact of political advertising on the society is that it promotes the society’s unwillingness to uphold a code of ethics. Because political parties and leaders aim at criticizing their opponents and promoting their policies, political advertising promotes offensive language.

Political parties and leaders blatantly criticize their opponents or competitors hence opposing sides keep on complaining that comments made about them by the opponents are unfair. The political advertisers also give unfair comments about their opponents. Wilmshurst and Mackay( Wilmshurst and Mackay,1999) state that because political campaigns involves marketing political ideas, mentioning the competitor and preventing them from being elected is vital . The comments political parties or leaders make against each other can fuel public cynicism.

For example, political advertising through the television sometimes focus on criticism claims that may not be correct. Because political advertising fails to follow a strict code of ethics that is considered to be important in the society, it promotes lack of accountability for allegations that are made. Social norms demand that all the society members be responsible and accountable for what they do or say, hence incorrect claims made in political advertising compromise the social norms and virtues. This has made it necessary for Britain to put into place a policy to regulate political advertising.

The House of Lords in March 2008 (2008, UKHL 15) indicated that broadcasting of political advertising in Britain need to be regulated by the Communications Act 2003 which is considered to be consistent with the Article 10 of the convention. The fear that political leaders can manipulate political debate to suit their interests made it necessary to ban political advertising. Proponents of the ban argue that since broadcasting is a powerful tool and a pervasive medium of communicating, there is need to maintain impartiality Political advertising erodes the credibility of leaders when they get involved in efforts to ruin each other’s reputation.

Since leaders are expected to act as role models to other society members, the ruining of each others’ reputation in the media portrays a bad picture of leadership. Political advertising can in this case be considered to discourage responsible leadership in the society. Furthermore, political advertising can promote dishonesty in the society due to the unsubstantiated, inaccurate, and false claims that political parties and leaders make against each other. Although the society expects political advertisements to practice honesty in informing voters about various political issues, many political adverts may give misleading information.

These claims may be spread further by the supporters who during the process may consider it right to spread the information to their advantage. In Australia, negative impact of political advertisement has raised concern because the political adverts have become more personal, vicious. and prevalent. The effects are associated to the importation of “Americanization”. Negative impact of political advertising on democracy Political advertising can have negative impact on democracy by discouraging people to vote.

When political advertisers use negative language to win voters by portraying a negative image of the opponents, some voters may be persuaded not to vote. This can be attributed to the political adverts’ role in discouraging people to vote for a particular party or candidate. In addition, when political advertisements increase the level of conflict and controversy between parties, the voters are discouraged from making a choice hence they fail to cast their vote. By creating “avoidance” in voting, negative campaigns deny citizens their democratic right to vote for their leaders.

Political advertising denies a political party or leader fair judgment when claims by an opponent are false, incorrect and misleading. Brierley (Brierley, 2002) confirms that comparative advertising portraying a political opponent as inappropriate has become a priority for political advertisers . When an opponent uses wrong information to persuade voters not to vote for a certain political party or leader, the democratic right of the opponent is denied. Political advertising becomes detrimental to democracy when they alienate voters and deter their participation in elections.

According to Kaid and Bacha(Kaid and Bacha,2006)political advertising may promote corruption and embezzlement of state funds as political parties and leaders seek for funds to sponsor the advertisements). For example, in Russia political advertisements in the early 1990s are considered to have promoted embezzlement of state funds. Political advertising in 1993 was characterized by talking heads and had a 20 minute political adverts. Some political parties lacked adequate funds to use in advertisements and nationalist such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky made extravagant promises on behalf of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia.

Russia’s Choice (Yabloko) and the Communist Party were not successful in making policy statements during the Voters Hour. The large sums of funds that were used for advertisements meant that the parties had to access funds generated from businesses and supporters. State funds were illegally diverted for use during the campaign. The Russia’s Choice is estimated to have spent about $183,000(224 million rubles). Fair competition which is important in promoting democracy may be undermined when some political parties lack adequate financial resources to use in political adverts.

Negative impact of political advertising on culture Nixon (Nixon, 2003) supports the opinion that political advertising has instilled a culture of negativity in the society. For instance, in Australia, negative political advertising has promoted negativity in the two-party adversarial system of governance. This has made the political advertising in country to promote extensive & negative television advertising. According to Political advertising in Australia (Political advertising in Australia, 2009), many people view negative television advertising to be a trademark of elections in Australia.

Furthermore, the integration of American political advertising techniques is said to change the Australian political culture. In Australia, a system requires strong political position try to obtain a majority of seats in the House or Representatives. The need to uphold a positive political advertising culture has made some nations to ban political advertising in television and radio. For example, Switzerland in the past has banned political advertising in radio and television but allowed newspaper advertising. Through the newspaper advertising, the protection of print media is possible.

Conclusion Political advertisement provides citizens with information that is beneficial to them. This is good for citizens who are either uninformed or uninterested in politics. Voters or people who may be less interested in politics may learn about political issues through adverts. Many professional associations as well as advertising firms criticize political advertisers for their unwillingness to follow a certain code of ethics and accountability. Political advertising is considered to go against the traditional forms of advertising.

Despite the negative perception towards political advertising on allegation that it erodes the good reputation of advertising, it continues to be embraced by political leaders all over the world. As parties weaken and voters become unpredictable such that their electoral decisions are influenced by short term forces, election campaigns are proving to be very vital. This makes political leaders interested in using communication to achieve their political interests. References Barack Obama urged to strike back over McCain’s Personal attack www. president-obama.

org/barack-obama-urged-to-strike-back-over-mccains-personal-attack-adverts Accessed on May 9, 2009 Barry, E. 1993, “Twenty years of Comparative Advertising in the United States”, International Journal of Advertising, Vol. 12 pp. 325-50. Brierley, S. 2002. The Advertising Handbook, London: Routledge Brown, P. , and Stayman, M. 1992. “Antecedents and consequences of attitude toward the ad: a meta-analysis”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 19 pp. 34-51. Dalton, J. 2002. Citizen politics: Public opinion and Political parties in advanced democracies (3rd Ed.

). New York: Chatham House Kaid, L. , and Bacha, C. 2006. The SAGE Handbook of Political Advertising, SAGE, Nixon, S. 2003. Advertising Cultures: Gender, Commerce, Creativity, And London: Sage Political advertising in Australia www. aph. gov. au/library/pubs/rb/2004-05/05rb05. htm Accessed on May 9, 2009 Sayre, S. 1994. Images of freedom and equality: a values analysis of Hungarian political commercials, Journal of Advertising , Tuesday, March 1 1994 Wilmshurst, J. and Mackay, A. 1999. The Fundamentals of Advertising, Oxford: Butterworth- Heinemann

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