Election 2013: the rise of the attack ad

And as the polling date draws closer, they’ve seen the rise the of so-called ‘attack ads’, in which the policies or record of one party or the other is portrayed negatively.



But is negative campaigning really effective?


Selling your political party to millions of voters is no easy job, and there’s no perfect formula for getting it right.

Both parties started this election campaign with positive advertising.


Kevin Rudd led with a ‘good guys’ approach.


“Our nation faces many new challenges and I know for sure that the old politics of negativity just won’t work …”

Tony Abbott and the Coalition tried an appeal to common sense.


“Australia has always been the land of opportunity, a place where every day can be a great day …”

Then, Labor changed its tune, bringing out two new TV ads that went firmly on the attack.

“What are you hiding, Mr Abbott? I remember when you were really aggressive. Negative. Tony Abbott has admitted that his plans will hurt people. Like families.”

The new ads targeted Coalition plans to cut spending, but Opposition leader Tony Abbott says the $70-billion hole Labor keeps referring to is fiction.

“It is simply false, simply false. It is yet another desperate scare campaign from a Labor Party that has no record to run on, and nothing to say about our future.”

The ads mark a stark reversal to Kevin Rudd’s earlier pledge to run a positive campaign.


The Prime Minister has defended his message on Channel 7.

“What I said is that our ads would be policy-based. I stand by every one of those examples put in that spotlight advertisement. You know why? Because this affects real people’s lives. This is not about negativity. It’s about accountability.”

Ads that deliberately attack the opposition are nothing new in politics and party leaders are often the target.

“Who do you trust?… Who do you trust?… Who do you trust?… Interest rates have risen nine times in a row under John Howard….Remember Kevin O’Lemon? This time last year, he got the chop! Thanks to Julia.”

Some of the most memorable ads aren’t necessarily the negative ones, so how much influence do attack ads really have on voters?

Former advertising executive Jane Caro says parties wouldn’t keep using the attack strategy if it wasn’t effective, and there’s a clear reason they do it.

“It’s to make you worry about the opponent. Often governments use negative campaigns more, because what they’re really saying is I’m the devil you know, I’m safer than the devil you don’t know.”



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