Which Is More Honest – Political or Commercial Advertising?

Commercial advertising is far more truthful than political advertising
There, I said it and I’m glad

Most every professional copywriter I know understands the main purpose of commercial marketing and advertising. It is to move people to buy a certain product or service. And how is this accomplished? By saying to the prospect, “Here’s our product, here’s how it’s unique, and here’s how it will benefit you and make your life better.”

Let’s contrast that with the oh so familiar political ad campaign which says, in effect, “My opponent is much more of a lying, cheating, untrustworthy, anti-everyone, rascally scalawag than I am – so vote for me.” In other words, most political discourse is based on tearing down the competition rather than elevating yourself above it.

Commercial Copy Held To Higher Standards

In commercial advertising and online website copywriting – believe it or not – there are significant constraints on the claims that may be made. You can use all the general puffery you want such as “Best Tasting”, “Most Authentic”, “Zippiest Design”, etc. You can use these because they are opinions and non-specific. Remember the case where Pizza Hut sued Papa John’s over the latter’s tag line of “Better Ingredients – Better Pizza”? The court held this line was simply “puffery” (or bragging) and not specific, so Papa John’s got to keep using it.

Businesses are held to strict standards of truth when it comes to specific claims. For instance, you can say that you are the #1 business of your kind in your state IF you won such an award from a third party, like the a local publication (“Voted Best Tacos in Albuquerque”) or a national manufacturer (“#1 in Chevy sales in Arizona”). Politicians have no such constraints.

Additionally, if you malign a competitor you may be subject to an expensive and time-consuming lawsuit. Have you ever heard of one political candidate suing another because they were lied about? In fact, from what I observe in recent presidential races and several congressional and senate races, lying is the standard form of communication.

Candidates, governments and elected officials are caught in egregious lies time and time again. Does anything ever happen to them? Rarely. Very rarely.

I’m Proud To Be A Professional Copywriter

I write killer marketing messages and conversion copy. I’ve done it for over thirty years. My talents help companies craft and articulate their unique messages. I am proud of what I do and the industry in which I work. Twice I have been approached to write copy for a political campaign but refused. I am convinced political ads and discourse is plagued with factual misstatements, distortions, and outright lies.

Now I know this column has gone a bit far afield from my normal marketing tips, insights and Secrets of the World’s Best Copywriters, but I needed to air my thoughts because there are some out there equating those who write copy promoting commercial products and services with those who write political ads, blogs, tweets and so on. And believe me, that’s a group with which I won’t be associated.

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