All Press Is Not Good Press – How About The Uses of Negative Advertising

Within the Public Relations arena, there is an oft-heard debate about if all press is good press – and opinions differ.  Some say just spell my name right – and of course others would say ask Carnival Cruises, Tiger Woods or many others who have been slammed by the media if all press is good press.

Bad press

Of course, on the other hand in the advertising arena one can argue that negative advertising isn’t “nice” and is an attempt to denigrate the competition to boost sales, votes or something of interest.  Of course, during any political election campaign one can see plenty of negative ads.  Both Republicans & Democrats used negative advertising in the 2012 American presidential election campaign so apparently across the board the technique is seen as useful.

In addition to dissing the competition, negative advertising can also be about building empathy through shared negative experiences. An example of this would be exploiting the common human experience of the need to return to work on Monday morning after a weekend off. A beer commercial, for example, might show a man returning to work on Monday with thoughts of drinking beer during good times with friends, still in his head. We see him sigh and walk into the office for another week of beer-free drudgery, longing for the next weekend.

Consumer Associations

The target audience gets that: the association of beer with leisure. If the commercial appeals, the brand takes off. This type of advertising can also be termed “negative advertising, since the ad is based on the common negative experience of being a responsible adult who must work in a boring alcohol and friend-free environment, most of the time.

There is a third type of negative advertising. This type of advertising gets under your skin through irritation and annoyance. The ad itself is grating and therefore memorable. A perfect example of this is the Kars4Kids jingle. Kids love to sing it while their parents grit their teeth every time they hear it on the radio or are forced to listen to their children’s imitation of the ad (perhaps many times in a row).

Cheesy Jingle

Yet clearly, there is something about the ad. Steve Scott wrote about the phenomenon of annoyance marketing in a blog post, “You might not be willing to sing on your blog, but don’t be afraid to use kitschy logos, silly slogans, and crazy colors on your site. ‘Annoyance marketing’ can work to your benefit. Kars 4 Kids cheesy jingle had gotten into my head and annoyed me … and their message stuck. I wound up doing just what they wanted me to do; they met their goal.”

Kars4Kids hit on something with that jingle. Rather than change the jingle to something more pleasant and melodious, the car donation charity is wisely exploiting the irritating nature of its well-known jingle to good advantage. Here are two of the latest promotional youtube clips put out by the charity that use negative annoyance marketing in an effective manner:

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