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How to Make a Political Attack Ad

When it comes to campaign ads, bad is good.


  • Step 1: Scare people Create doomsday scenarios. Make the young think nuclear holocaust is imminent; remind the middle-aged that Social Security is going bankrupt; tell old folks they’re going to have to start choosing between dinner and their meds. Your candidate, of course, is the only one who can turn things around.
  • Step 2: Pounce Go over your opponent’s voting record and speeches to see what you can take out of context—and pounce when he stumbles.
  • Step 3: Imply something sinister Imply something sinister about your opponent, like his secret motive for running for office is to promote polygamy or establish the Taliban in the U.S.
  • TIP: Be suitably vague in your implications—so they can’t be easily disproved.
  • Step 4: Find a catchphrase Find a negative catchphrase that you can apply to your opponent — like 'Slick Willie' — then beat it like a dead horse.
  • Step 5: Dig up dirt Dig up dirt. Don’t kid yourself—despite what voters say about wanting a 'clean campaign,' they eat up scandal, especially if it’s salacious.
  • TIP: Make sure the dirt is fresh. Research shows people love a new scandal, but get annoyed with ads that repeat old, well-known infractions.
  • Step 6: Stay negative Above all, stay negative. Research shows that negative attacks on one’s political opponents are far more effective than self-promotion.
  • FACT: President Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 'daisy commercial' - in which a 6-year-old girl is shown picking daisies just before a nuclear bomb explodes - was called 'the dirtiest ad ever done.'

You Will Need

  • Rumors and innuendo
  • A catch-phrase
  • Something taken out of context
  • A fresh scandal involving your opponent

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