A researcher in Columbia challenges convention wisdom about the kinds of political ads that are infesting our airwaves in these last weeks before the election—the insufferable attack commercials that tell listeners and viewers little or nothing about the candidate behind the ads….but try to paint the other candidate as selfish, unclean, a tool of special interests, and out of step with this or that hot-button phrase that is supposed to stand for everything that is right in the world. Meet advertising professor Paul Bolls from the University of Missouri-Columbia who says the consultants and candidates are all wrong. He says his research not only contradicts the intuitive thinking of the effect of attack ads on voters, it contradicts what a lot of previous research has said about the ways people process attack ads and remember them. His research says the best ads are slower-paced, non-attack ads in which a candidate establishes a personal relationship with the viewer or listener and explains what the candidate stands for. He admits that type of ad works best early when a candidate is establising credentials and identity…but he says the candidate who runs the “nice and slow” ads will be more favorably remembered when the kind of stuff we’re seeing and hearing now gets cranked up. He hopes his research will produce some changes in the way the 2004 campaign is run.
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